“Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” (Mathew 13:7)
Remember reading the Iliad and the Odyssey in high school? Maybe not. Homer’s ancient epic poems have been made into movies several times. We’re better at remembering movies these days than literature.
Anyway, both the Iliad and the Odyssey are about a character named Odysseus, king of Ithaca. At the beginning of the story Odysseus is called to the war at Troy and is forced to leave his home, his wife Penelope and baby son Telemachus (heck of a name for a baby). Fighting the war takes ten years, but finally it’s over and Odysseus is anxious to return to his wife and son. He sets sail with his men, but the trip takes another ten years; filled with adventures and imprisonments designed, by the gods, to keep Odysseus from ever reaching his home.
One of his many stops was a pleasant island populated by a peaceful people whose diet consisted of lotus flowers. Odysseus and his crew beached their ship on the island to take on fresh water. After they had filled their stores and had lunch on the beach, he sent out a few of his men to find out what sort of people the Lotus-eaters were.
Odysseus’ men found the island’s inhabitants friendly and peaceful … way peaceful. The islanders shared some of their lotus flower food with Odysseus’ men, who discovered the root ofÂ their peace. Eating the lotus flower caused men to forget all of their cares.
Here’s Odysseus’ recount of what happened:
“They started at once and went about among the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off all caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars.”
The taste of the lotus flower was so exquisite and its narcotic so powerful that Odysseus’ men lost all thought of going home. Can you imagine a flower so enticing that just by tasting it you would lose the desire to ever return home?
Jesus warned his disciples of such a plant. He called it a thorn after its true nature, rather than a flower, which it disguises itself as in the eyes of men.
“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22)
Falling in love with what this world has to offer is like eating the mythical lotus flower. The taste of it can make you forget that this place is just a rest stop – not your final destination.
Those who haven’t tasted all the goodies this world promises, but hunger after them are like the horse with a carrot on a stick, hanging just in front of its nose; always in sight, but never in reach. The horse just keeps going and going, always following the carrot. It doesn’t even need to taste the carrot to become mesmerized by it; just the desire for it is enough to make the horse forget everything else.
The lucky horse that actually does get a taste stops in its tracks to munch; like Odysseus’ men among the Lotus-eaters, losing all care of ever going home.
The desire for worldly wealth can be just as narcotic as the taste of it; making a man forget that he is just a visitor to this island. The man deceived by all the good things this world offers loses his vision of home. He’s sedated, content to stay amongst the Lotus-eaters.
Odysseus’ mission was to return home and to bring his men back to their families. On his journey, in every stop along the way, some danger lurked to keep him from returning home. The land of the Lotus-eaters seemed pleasant and its people hospitable, but Odysseus and his men found out that even the most gracious and hospitable land can prevent you from ever getting home.
It’s natural to want good stuff rather than bad stuff. And the nice things this world offers can make life here a whole lot easier. But remember this, making life here easier, isn’t what our mission is all about. This island isn’t our home. It may seem attractive at times. The fruit that grows here may even taste sweet enough to make you forget your real home. But don’t be deceived by the produce it offers. They’re not lotus flowers; they’re thorns. If you allow them to grow up around you they will choke out your remembrance of your real home and make your time here fruitless.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2: 15-17)