THE WAYSIDE: THE INDIFFERENT CHRISTIAN
“And when he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the wayside.” Matthew 13:4, 19
The wayside was a simple road or path traveled upon by many to neighboring towns in Biblical times. Jesus began his discourse, declaring the mission of the sower as he scattered the seed upon the ground while passing by. Often in the teaching of Jesus, he would gain the attention of the people by saying, “He that hath ears to hear let him hear.” He knew of the necessity of hearing God’s word and desired those who would hear it to take the earnest heed to receive it.
Jesus gives the natural illustration of the birds coming to devour the seed and later interprets the meaning to his disciples. The character described by Jesus hears the word but doesn’t understand it, and Satan immediately comes to take away the word out of his heart. Hearing the word of God is of no benefit to the person who lacks understanding. “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And with all thy getting, get understanding,” (Proverbs 4:7).
To the Christian who fails to consider the need of the word to sustain his life, he becomes an easy prey for the devil to deceive and destroy. When Satan loses a soul to God, he is determined to bring that soul back under his control. If he sees an individual going slack in his faith to believe God’s word, then Satan seizes the moment to take advantage of him (2nd Corinthians 2:11). The devil doesn’t care how much you shout, praise, or dance in the church.
If he can keep you from knowing the word of God, then he’s accomplished his purpose. I believe several factors are causes that afflict one to become a wayside type of character. The first is indifference; this has become one of Satan’s greatest weapons in modern Christendom today. Showing apathy and a lack of concern reflects this attitude in some believers. Such believers take little time studying the Bible or in prayer, and remain for most of their lives spiritually immature.
“For when the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. Everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe,” (Hebrews 5:12-13).
With no real interest in learning about God’s word, the wayside saint approaches issues in life lackadaisically. They can be found in church, probably in the back, sitting with their legs crossed, arms folded, and looking bored as worship service is going on. From time to time, they’re watching the clock on the wall or their wristwatch wondering when service is over. Some may be sleeping, slouched down in the pew, or involved in the popular distraction among members, such as the ubiquitous cell phone. The wayside believer is a “fringe” member of a church whose commitment is trivial at best and unreliable to participate in the activities of a church.
Their attendance tends to be sporadic, relegated to once a week or every other week, and relationships with fellow members are lukewarm and limited. Usually, these persons gravitate to other members of like attitude and form a mutual bond of unconcern that can be problematic in the church. Often, they’re the last to arrive while worship services are in progress and the first to leave when the service has ended. Attending church is reduced to a recreational experience instead of a spiritual one.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me,” (Hosea 4:6).
As the scripture reads, the prophet warns Israel of their coming judgement for rejecting God’s word that would have delivered them. Israel’s iniquities made them refuse the word and made them an easy prey for their enemies, for no understanding prevents knowledge from being received. When there is no vision, then the people will perish (Proverbs 29:18). The wayside Christian’s sluggishness renders him inept and undisciplined to deal with problems that arise. Without spiritual guidance to lead him and God’s word as an anchor, such a one will soon wither away in mediocrity (John 15:4-5). Satan’s trap is to deceive and lure the weak into false security.
The devil can make one believe that simply going to church will make a person right despite his neglect to live by God’s word. It’s like the analogy of the frog and a beaker of water. Try to place the frog in a beaker of boiling water and he will jump away from the beaker because of the heat. Put the frog in a beaker of water at room temperature and he will rest comfortably in it. Place the beaker over the flame and the heat will gradually rise in the beaker, while the frog remains unmoved in it. By the time the water reaches a boiling point, it is too late for the frog to react, as he is boiled alive.
So it is with Satan and his attempt to overtake the lethargic Christian. He may not entrap one into falling into adultery or murder, but he can mislead a person to succumb to the hidden sins of the heart, such as jealousy, hatred, or envy. Another trait found in the wayside person is forgetfulness. Hebrews 2:1 tells us, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things, which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.”
The apostle Paul addressed the character of forgetfulness with a sense of urgency of saints being attentive to hearing the word of God. He exhorts that failure to do so can bring dire consequences to the forgetful hearer. A cavalier attitude towards the scriptures makes one vulnerable to trials of life when there’s no memory of the word. James, in his epistle, speaks of the dilemma that faces the forgetful hearer who neglects to be a doer of the word.
The illustration given is of one who beholds his face in a mirror and goes away forgetting who he was (James 1:24). As children, our parents taught us proper hygiene in taking care of our bodies. If one were to dismiss those principles and live a filthy lifestyle, he soon would repel others with his offensive odor. He may not notice the odor being he is accustomed to living in that manner, but everyone else does.
The same holds true in the spiritual realm with the careless hearer. The Bible is the mirror, which shows us the daily need to hear and obey the guidelines of truth in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Forgetting becomes a bad habit that disables the believer from growing and leaves him powerless to resist the wiles of Satan. Instead of reflecting the character of Christ, the weak believer falls back to the carnal ways of the past. Also, he deludes himself into thinking all is right in his life, when in reality he’s blind to his deplorable state (2nd Peter 1:5-9).
The other cause of the wayside believer is hardness of heart. This is the final phase of the person whose disregard of the word and callous spirit rebels against God’s message. He may still attend church, but his heart is closed to receive what is needful for his life. “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their hearts,” (Ephesians 4:18).
Such a one becomes insensitive not only to hearing God’s word, but also in relationship to others in the church. Paul warned the Corinthians to examine their standing with God or they would become reprobates or rejected of God (2nd Corinthians 13:5). As prophesied by Jesus, one of the signs of the last days would be iniquity abounding and the love of many waxing cold (Matthew 24:12).
We can see these problems affecting churches today as many are harboring ill will and contentions with fellow members. Families are splitting apart and friendships broken because they have fallen into a spirit of selfishness and detachment. This spirit has caused some to disrespect those in leadership positions by ignoring the pleas of counsel and help. Without the loving grace of God’s deliverance, the wayside believer faces a sad and untimely end.