There are thorns surrounding my home. Thick, nearly impenetrable, invasive bushes. They look ominous, like they want to take over the entire property.
And they would too, but just by mowing around the edges and clipping a few grasping arms, I keep the thorns pretty well in check. When we go to the trouble, my wife can make some awesome blackberry jam. But we go picking and inevitably, the thorns get us.
Nice thorns should point outward, to keep people out. But these thorns point inward! How mean! Naturally, we want to just reach in and grab something good. We might be careful not to get poked on the way in, get brushed by a few thorns and it’s no big deal: we think we’ve got it figured out. But we grab what we want, pull it out quickly, and that’s when the thorns grab us.
You feel the pain and your arm automatically pulls harder, so the thorns dig deeper. Like demons from hell, branches whip out and dig into your flesh. They drag you in, and sometimes, they just will not let you go. What you need to do is stop, think about your predicament, and carefully loosen their grip on you.
Many “good” things in life are like blackberries. Some people might put up with the thorns, or become so entrapped by them that they never escape. Sometimes we might say “But there’s all this amazing fruit in here!” and ignore the infected wounds and the pain it causes.
Of course, I’m not just talking about substance abuse. Any addiction takes maintenance, and there’s lots of unpleasant things people do to get just one more fix. Take pride, for instance. Yes. Remember now, it’s one of the Seven Deadly Sins (Proverbs 16:18, James 4:6). We can keep pride at a manageable distance (1 Corinthians 1:31), or let ourselves enjoy how good it feels. Soon enough we start to feel superior. Like the blackberries that constantly try to devour my pump house, I really have to slash them back every now and then. But many people feed their sins with friends and media that avoid the truth, just so that they can feel good about themselves.
Rarely, Jesus explains His parables in detail. But He spent a lot of time explaining The Parable of the Soils, so it's worth a read (Matthew 13:1–23, also Mark 4:1–20 and Luke 8:4–15). He tells us that the Word of God is like seed that gets choked by thorns. We can know that “The cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches” (Mark 4:19b) are a lot like my blackberries. How useful are we when we become immobilized in the thorns of our own sins? Many (probably most) people get used to being enslaved by thorns (Matthew 7:13), especially when they see how many other people are enslaved (Hebrews 3:7-13ff). They are even frightened by the freedom, and use that to justify falling back into the same old ways.
Instead of letting the thorns choke us, let’s work the ground that God has given, making sure that the fruit we seek is actually serving God and humanity,