June 2, 2005

“Cares of This Age” (Mark 4:19)

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

In Mark 4:19, Jesus identifies the thorns that can choke the seed as “the concerns of this age, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things.” That first phrase is often translated “the cares of this world” (e.g,. NKJV), and is then understood to refer to various earthly concerns.

And it’s true that our various concerns as we live in this world can become thorns that choke the word. A passion for sports can keep you out of church on Sunday. Love for a family member can prompt you to leave the church when that ungodly family member is put under church discipline. Work can take over your life so that your big concern is getting ahead and not serving the Lord.

All of those things are true and I believe they are valid applications of Jesus’ warning in Mark 4. But I wonder if those things are the primary things Jesus has in mind. Jesus doesn’t speak here about the concerns of “earthly life” but of the cares or concerns of “this age.”

I suspect that phrase refers to the age of the Old Covenant. Old Covenant concerns can become a thorn that chokes the word, that keeps Jesus’ message from bearing fruit.

What are some of those Old Covenant concerns?

The land, for one. Israel is now back in the Promised Land and is passionately concerned about the land. But following Jesus will lead to a situation in which the land doesn’t matter anymore. Jesus even tells a rich man to sell his possessions, which, I suspect, would include the land that had been in his family for centuries. But in the New Covenant there would be no “Holy Land,” no inherited lots which had to remain in the family. And those who wanted to cling to the land — and especially those who resented the Roman presence in Israel as a threat to their Old Covenant inheritance — could allow that concern to keep them from following Jesus. The good news that the kingdom is here sounds great until one realizes that it doesn’t mean the elimination of the Roman threat and the restoration of your piece of turf.

The temple is another Old Covenant concern. In the Old Covenant, it was a valid concern. But zeal for the temple could lead to rejection of Jesus. If Jesus is seen as a threat to the temple, then away with Jesus! Concern for the temple can be a thorn that chokes the word.

In fact, all of the riches that Israel was enjoying in the Promised Land at this particular time could be thorns. If Israel began to believe that those riches were a sign that God was blessing her and that therefore she had no need to repent, then those riches become “deceitful.” They are misleading people, keeping them from doing what God wants them to do. Those who listen to the lies these riches tell let them choke the word.

What about “desires for other things”? I’m not sure. Perhaps it could refer to the desires for the things that the Gentiles have. Perhaps it’s just a more general phrase, to indicate that Jesus’ warning doesn’t concern only the “cares of this age” or “the deceitfulness of riches,” but encompasses any of our desires for things other than the word. Thus, it would lead to the ordinary applications mentioned above: Jesus and His Word must take precedence over all the other concerns of our lives.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:25 pm | Discuss (0)

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