8 Min Read

Dead Men Walking

Published on

November 20, 2023

Iknow, I know, ki le leyi bayi? (what’s all this?) This early Monday morning? From where to where? Yes, the title may remind you of zombies, vampires, and their related undead family members. Rest assured, that is not the focus our conversation this morning.

Let’s jump in.

I was reading the Parable of the Sower as recorded in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 a few weeks back and noticed something for the first time. As a quick recap, the parable talks about a sower going out with seed, the seed and the sowing being a semblance of God’s Word sown in our hearts. The parable highlights four (4) places the seeds could get sown: by the wayside, on stony ground, in a thorny area, and in good soil. Of all four places, only one is desirable: the good soil. The seeds that get sown by the wayside get picked up by the birds of the air and don’t even germinate. The seeds sown on the stony ground spring up quickly but, having no depth, die as quickly as they sprung up as soon as the scorching sun comes up. The seeds sown in the thorny areas are choked by the thorns. Only the seeds sown in good soil yield fruits thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and a hundred-fold. It is easy to assume that all other plants, except those planted in good soil, died. However, this would be a faulty assumption. In all three (3) accounts of this parable, the Bible never said the plants in the thorny areas died—they simply did not produce fruit.

The seeds sown in thorny grounds present a curious case. Their seeds did not “l’azzident”; nobody stole the Word from them; they received it wholeheartedly—likely with joy and excitement. These plants in thorny areas have depth and are well-grounded with a sure foundation. It can even be argued that they have taken root downwards because, otherwise, they would have fallen under the category of those sown on the shallow ground and perished on the rising of the sun. These persons are deeply rooted; they know the Word, and they can, perhaps, search the Word like the Berean Christians. They can also withstand the heat of the scorching sun and not make a shipwreck of their faith. They can go through trials and tribulations and come out on the other side with their faith intact. The seeds sown on the thorny ground present a picture of a Christian who knows the Word, is alive in Christ, and is seemingly well in the faith. From a distance, they may look the same as those sown on good soil, with but one difference—they produce no fruit, or rather, per Luke’s rendition of the parable, they bring no fruit to maturity. This is a shared characteristic with the fictional undead, who lack the natural ability to reproduce.

Before we discuss why the seeds sown in thorny areas are the way they are and the possible next steps for them, let’s talk about this thing with fruits and God’s “seeming obsession,” i.e., the level of importance He places on fruit-bearing.

To begin, let us align on what these fruits are. The parable doesn’t specify what this fruit is in detail. However, scripture and science shed some light.

Let’s take the scientific perspective. Firstly, a fruit is a mechanism through which a living organism produces after its kind (yes, I liked the flow but couldn’t find a word ending with -ism). Fruits reproduce with a multiplication factor, which is vital to the survival of its species, i.e., one orange tree produces fruits that can result in 100 more orange trees. I will digress at this point to shoot soft shots and salute blessed couples who intend to have children at or below replacement level (i.e., only one or two kids). Secondly, a fruit is often the culmination of all the plant activities. All the water, manure, and photosynthesis culminate in the production of fruits, hence the term “fruit of your labour.” From these two attributes, we can see the importance of fruits, even from a scientific perspective.

From a Biblical perspective, we see fruits in two-fold: inward-facing fruits of righteousness, which refer to fruits in our character and conduct. Then outward-facing fruits which align with the ministry of reconciliation and the Great Commission given to us to make disciples of the nations. From Galatians 5, we see a clear definition of the Fruit of the Spirit (inward facing): love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In addition, Matthew 7, speaking on false prophets, talks about good and bad trees and their ability to replicate only after their kind. The tree is known by its fruit, so you need a good tree for good fruit. The inward-facing fruits often precede the outward-facing.

From scripture, given the importance of fruits, we see that God optimises for fruit bearing—cutting branches that do not bear fruit and pruning branches that bear fruit so they may bear more. A similar “cutting off” is witnessed with the fig tree cursed for being alive, having leaves, but not bearing fruit. The tree’s only crime (other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time) was that it was not fruitful. We see a similar punishment befall the unprofitable servant who was given one talent and failed to work it to produce more of its kind.

Though fully alive, the plants in thorny areas cannot bring fruit to maturity because they bleed resources on the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. Resources, which are made available to them and should be directed towards the production of inward and outward fruits, get diverted through the leaks made by the thorns to other activities that pale in comparison to the purpose of the plant’s existence. These persons are well fed in the Word, with much Grace made available, but these resources are spent on pleasures, passions, and wrong motives. Need a contemporary example? Look no further than embezzlement or the diversion of palliatives, and perhaps we may begin to understand why God takes this seriously.

What’s the way out for plants in thorny areas? Two things need to happen. Firstly, there needs to be a purge—2 Timothy 2:21–26;

But in a great house, there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honour and some for dishonour. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, [h]sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

The teaching, The Journey from Earth to Gold sheds more light on this. I encourage you to give it a listen (or re-listen).

Secondly, there is what I refer to as The Framework of Fruitfulness detailed in 2 Peter 1:5–8;

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The keyword would be to give all diligence, time, and resources to these things, not to the cares of this world. I urge you to put pressure on the grace and resources given to you to produce fruit—even this week.

Have a Blessed Week.

Itoro Nehemiah


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