What Are You Doing to Defeat the Thistles in Your Life?
On Saturdays this summer I have been trying to get rid of milk thistles in our yard. If you have ever had to deal with thistles, you will understand exactly why I hate thistles so much. If you’ve never dealt with thistles, then you will probably think I’m a little off for having such a visceral hatred of these plants. At the risk of sounding extreme, my thistle battle is a metaphor for the spiritual battle that everyone faces.
Scripture employs thistles as a symbol of the effects of sin in our lives. In Genesis 3, as a result of the Fall, God tells Adam and Eve that the ground will be cursed and thorns and thistles will grow as a result (Genesis 3:18).
I see five similarities between my thistle battle and the spiritual fight that every person has to deal with in their lives.
1. Thistles offer little but hurt much.
The only thing redeeming about thistles is the tiny little purple flowers that appear on the top of their stalks. But everything else about thistles is nasty.
Thistles have tiny almost hair-like spikes that protect the plant. You will know right away if you brush against a thistle or step on one accidentally with your bare feet. These little spikes will lodge in your skin like splinters and continue hurting while they are stuck in your skin. And thistle splinters have to be removed just like regular splinters, except they hurt a lot worse.
Sin may seem attractive, but the attraction that it offers always pales in comparison to the damage that it leaves behind. Doing something that seems right at the time can have long-lasting effects: giving in to sexual temptation, taking something that belongs to someone else, or saying angry words in the heat of the moment. The little pleasure that you derive from the thistles in your life give gets swallowed up by the pain that follows.
2. Thistles thrive in bad soil.
Thistles grow well where other plants will not, and thistles take over in poor soil. In fact, I have seen many a field where the thistles dominate the terrain.
Sin takes root when the conditions are favorable for it to do so. If you do not take care of the soil of your life, sin has a way of making its home there. While it’s true that sin gets into everyone’s life, we don’t have to go out of our way to make it comfortable for the thistles in your life.
It’s important to have your life be composed of good soil. Jesus said it is important to, first, hear the word; second, understand it; and also, third, let it bear fruit (Matthew 13:23; Mark 4:20; Luke 8:15). You have to cultivate the soil of your life so that the word will bear fruit in your life It won’t just happen on its own.
3. Thistles grow and take root quickly.
Thistles grow extremely fast. When I walk around my property each week, it’s amazing how much they will grow from one week to the next. One week I will think I have eradicated all the thistles on my property, only to find the following week that many more have sprung up in just seven days. Thistles can grow quickly from flimsy plants into strong stalks. And once these plants become stalks, they become very difficult to cut down.
If allowed to grow unchecked, sin can take root quickly. If you allow sin to hide in your life—and close off that area of your life to any kind of inspection—then sin can become a strong fixture in your life. It requires that you regularly take a spiritual inventory of your life so that you know what is going on inside your head. Otherwise, the thistles of your life will become firmly entrenched.
4. Once there, thistles are hard to get rid of.
The spikes on the thistle plant hurt tremendously if you try to grasp it purposely with your hand. I have even had these hair-like spikes pierce through my thick leather work gloves. They are hard to get at because the spikes hurt even if they brush you or fall on you. But the only way to get rid of them is by digging them out of the ground.
If you allow sin in your life, it has a strong defense mechanism. It will not want anyone to touch it. It will try to protect its presence in your life, and it will try to convince you that you don’t want to go near it—or else you will reap the consequences. But the only way to get rid of it is to dig it up by the roots and get it out of your life—which is easier said than done.
5. One thistle seed can make a big impact.
The fluffy dandelion-like seeds of one thistle plant can travel for up to a mile. When the wind catches them, they can travel in all directions. And if they land in a place with poor soil, the thistle can take hold in that new place.
One person’s sin can affect—and infect—many other people around them. I have seen how one person’s sin has impacted multiple generations, either by their progeny having to deal with the effects of that sin or by their progeny repeating that same sin in their own lives (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9).
By dealing with the sin in your life, you will spare many in your family—and your future progeny—from having to deal with it. Be compassionate on your children and grandchildren: Take your thistle battle seriously, and root out the thistles in your life.