Some theologians feel that this is perhaps one of the most practical parables that Jesus ever told. It tells us that there is a hostile power in the world and that this power can skilfully camouflage itself as it goes about its business of destroying ‘good seed’, it warns us to be careful about making swift judgements on others and reminds us that God himself is the judge and a time is coming when he will exercise that right. What matters is how we will stand before Him.
Jesus speaks of an enemy so let’s not be hoodwinked into thinking that there isn’t one – that’s the greatest tactic he has – that he doesn’t exist. There is an enemy and he seeks to undermine, confuse and destroy all that God is about and doing in our lives and in the world today. The weed mentioned in the parable is ‘Darnel’. In its early stages Darnel so closely resembles wheat that it is very difficult to tell them apart. It is only when the heads appear that they can be identified, but by then the damage has been done, it has deceived the farmer and it is now too late to separate them out as the roots have become intertwined with the wheat. It must wait for the harvest.
As disciples of Jesus we need to be mindful of the spiritual soil we are in and what is growing around us and influencing our environment. It’s all too easy to suddenly find ourselves in a situation where the culture around us is beginning to dictate our growth and our spiritual health rather than the other way around. Things that at first we thought quite harmless, may suddenly reveal themselves as a threat to our spiritual health and our relationship with God himself.
When my wife left her teaching post last year she was given an apple tree from her class as a gift. A few weeks ago, I cleared and prepared some land in the back-garden ready to plant it but then events took over and the tree remained in its pot until this week when I had an opportunity to place it in its new home. When I re-approached the ground, it was completely covered with weeds, thistles, grass and nettles. All the good work had been undone because I had left the ground unattended and had ignored its need. I then had to spend many more hours of very slow labour digging up the weeds by the root, in an attempt to ensure that they would not reappear.
The weeds had taken over the good soil and if we’re not vigilant the same can happen in our lives. We can allow negative attitudes such as greed, bitterness, envy, selfishness etc, attitudes that have got nothing to do with God’s desire for our lives, to take hold and to begin to suffocate God’s best for us; for many, the enemy smothers out the very reality of God’s existence and His love for us. We can become swift to pass judgement on one another and lethargic to the idea of prayer, worship and studying His word; anaesthetised to the reality that one day we will all meet God, and it is He and He alone who will pass judgement on our lives.
What will matter then is whether we lived our lives in and for Christ and have been made righteous (right) with God through his son Jesus. It’s a decision we make and this is the hope that Paul refers to in his letter to the church in Rome.
Every day is a good day to check over our lives and to ask God’s Holy Spirit to reveal where there may be weeds encroaching and threatening the health of our relationship with God. Once identified, we need to ask for His help to remove them and to keep our spirits free from their influence in the future.
I remember being told that there are three statements everyone likes to hear.
The Jewish tradition was that when you received a person’s envoy or ambassador it was as if you were receiving the person themselves. To pay respect to the ambassador was to pay respect to the King who had sent him. Conversely, if you failed to treat the ambassador with respect and honour then you were showing great contempt and disrespect to their master.
This was particularly so for those who taught God’s truth.
Jesus’ call is for us to recognise and respect his presence in one another, to support and to encourage one another in our walk with Him and to reveal His love to those around us as we demonstrate His love in us. We’re reminded that we are ambassadors for Jesus and should behave and be seen as such. There are plenty of examples in scripture where we are reminded about the importance of sharing hospitality as a witness to the love of God in our lives, eg - James 2:15-17, Romans 12:13 – and that we may even entertain Angels by doing so – Hebrews 13:2
Our simple acts of hospitality can create a pleasant atmosphere in our homes, in our lives and very importantly, in our places of worship.
I love walking amongst the perfume counters in department stores or sampling the scents coming from the different diffusers and sprays on the various counters. Smells matter, (ask any parent of a teenager) but our actions also have the power to change the ‘aroma’ of a place or a situation for good or for bad. We may have to identify and remove something negative in our lives that’s preventing a good atmosphere from developing and taking hold. A bad attitude, a misunderstanding or a prejudice of some kind can create considerable problems in our own lives as well as the lives of those around us.
Last week I offered my wife Sarah a lift in the car (I’m all heart!) but as we got into the car we were faced with a dreadful smell. It caused immediate comment from her (blokes, you’ll know what I mean) and certainly made my nose curl. I drove with the windows open but it was still there. I emptied the contents of a can of air freshener into the cab, but it was still there. It wasn’t until I discovered the source of the problem - a plastic bag in the boot, full of rotting flowers – that I was able to begin to change the atmosphere. Once they were removed, the car could begin to offer the welcome and hospitality that I initially intended and desired it to. In a similar vein, we need to be vigilant of anything that might be tainting the aroma of Jesus in our lives and affecting the spirit of his generosity and welcome.
We sang ‘King of Kings, majesty’ by Jarrod Cooper this week. The line: ‘God of Heaven, living in me’ reminds us that our actions should be a response to his love at work in our lives. Simple acts of kindness and thoughtfulness matter and can make a great deal of difference to the lives of others. I wonder who we might be able to bless with our welcome and hospitality in the days that lie ahead?
With His blessings
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale