Reading: Matthew 13:24-30
There is a plant in our backyard that doesn’t look like really look like a flower until it blooms. Now I’m the kind of gardener that doesn’t pull weeds until the whole place looks like a jungle. So before I weed, I have to have my wife, Kelsie, tell me what is a weed and what is supposed to be in the garden area. Some weeds are easy to pick out, but others, like the butterfly bush, I need multiple reminders about...and even then...sometimes a shoot or two of the butterfly bush is plucked up as part of the chaff. The parable of the weeds or tares hits home for us.
There are many different and intriguing interpretations of this parable, which is perhaps a statement about Biblical scholarship since Jesus is recorded as giving an explanation of its meaning in the verses following our reading. For the sake of this devotion, though, let’s summarize by saying there are two types of people in the Kingdom of God on Earth, Wheat and Weeds. Forces of God working for the good, and Forces of the enemy choking out the nutrients from the kingdom’s growth. It is a little dualistic when interpreted that way, but there is a reason that the weeds aren’t plucked before their time. Some flowers may look like weeds before they mature or bloom, and some weeds may appear to be flowers. When the final day comes, the truest nature of all things and each person will be revealed. The parable leaves us with a burning question… “Could I be a weed?”
So here are five practices to help us avoid behaving like a weed:
Serve Others: Of course in a month about how a life of discipleship fundamentally includes service to others, you should expect serving to be in the countdown. A theme you will find in all of these suggestions is that it is hard to be a weed when you are helping others. Weeds are pretty selfish. Their ultimate goal is to grow and grow and grow and it pretty much always comes at the expense of others around. Christ’s model of discipleship has serving others as a core value. Something amazing happens when we break out beyond the tyranny of self and truly see and serve the child of God in front of us.
Stop Asking “What can ____ do for me?”: Yes, John F. Kennedy “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” It’s a life lesson, not just a citizenship tip. Kennedy’s words are memorable, but the tune of our culture has turned more and more towards favoring the personal utility of whatever relationship, product, or community we are a part of. Even in churches the first question tends to be, “What is this place doing for me?” And churches have catered to the mindset, splitting, separating, and giving a plethora of options. But breaking the weed mentality involves not just looking for our own gain or to have our preferences met, but looking to serve as part of the greater Body of Christ, and to invest in the growth of others, finding our own growth as we go together in this unique community.
Promote the Growth of Others: Nice transition, Cameron! The only growth that weeds promote is their own, a great sign that you are part of the Wheat is to invest in the growth of others. (Of course, there’s the issue of weeds growing other weeds, see numbers 1-2, 4-5 to ensure that we aren’t growing a bramble) Combining the ideals of selfless service with investment in others is a recipe for a healthy church and a furthering of the Kingdom of God on Earth. Mentor relationships are vastly important in both the Old and New Testaments. From Ruth and Naomi, to Elijah and Elisha and Barnabas and Paul, walking with others with their best in mind is part of the wheat life.
Forgive Others: Believe it or not, human beings let one another down from time to time. Shocking, I know. The inability to forgive one another our trespasses has been tremendously damaging to the church throughout its history. Sometimes even the flowers look like weeds, sometimes flowers even act like weeds. Try planting sunflowers near other garden plants and see what happens! I believe this is one reason why the wheat and chaff aren’t separated until that final day, because God help us if the gardeners came through on a day when we were behaving a little more weed-like than we ought. Be gentle with those around you as Christ has been gentle with you. After all, life in the garden is dirty.
Fully Surrender to Christ: This one is really the first and the last on our list...get it? First and last...alpha and omega...Jesus? *Ahem.* Ultimately it is not our behavior that determines our holiness or worthiness to enter into God’s Heavenly Kingdom. I wager that these actions are evidence of where the heart is, but actions alone, no matter how noble, cannot save us. Christ in this allegory has planted the seeds that grow into the Kingdom’s harvest, and God alone knows what has been cultivated in our hearts as life goes on. Surrender to Christ in confession, penitence, and repentance for those “weedy” moments is the only way to be truly in right relationship with God. It is Christ who is the instigator and sustainer of the actions on our list.