January 12, 2024

By Bishop Rob Patterson, Allegheny Conference

Scripture meditation: 2 Timothy 2:4, Matthew 13:1-23

I hate greenbrier. Nasty stuff. Native to eastern North America, the vine symbolizes the word entanglement. For years, my efforts to improve my property were heavily impeded by its Velcro-like thorns that would grab me, scratch me, and slow my progress to a crawl. What I most love about greenbrier is cutting it off, pulling it out, piling it up, and watching it burn.

According to the Bible, thorny plants like greenbrier are fit only for the fire. They’re the enemy of vitality, freedom, and fruitfulness. Unchecked, they choke out life. But keeping them in check is an ongoing challenge. They’re tough. They’re persistent. It’s annoying and frustrating to clear an area, and then clear it again just a few years later.

Such is life. Life is filled with various types of thorny vines that entangle us. Jesus is very succinct in saying that those things are the “cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.” (Matt 13:22)

But succinct does not mean narrow. “Cares and riches” encompass a lot of territory. And the entanglements can be quite complex. Like greenbrier, only part of the entanglement is visible. The root network below the surface is every bit as intertwined as the vines in the trees and bushes above ground.

The Brethren in Christ value controlling the power of cares and riches. We want to avoid getting entangled with worldly “trappings.” By God’s grace, we hope to keep our lives simple. The intricacies of this value cannot be fully unpacked in a short devotional, but examining how we use our time and money can be a good place to start.

Time and money are resources like any physical possession. Our schedules and budgets – how we use those resources – are reflections of our personal priorities. If we look at how we expend those two resources, we get a picture of how free or how captive we are as citizens of the two kingdoms in which we live.

Take this opportunity to do a check-up. Among the many activities that compete for my time and money, which ones are for the King and his kingdom? Are there any that have me in their grip and are hindering my service to the King? Invite God to detangle your life from the grip of those vines.


Father, show me my heart through your lens. Grant me insight, wisdom, courage, and strength to maximize my fruitfulness by cutting out of my life whatever entangles and hinders. Amen.