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.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale