Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Parables of Jesus: Wheat versus Weeds

Matthew 13:24-29, 36-43

Part I: Best Intentions Can Produce Weed-like Results
Part II: Fruit of Our Life is What Distinguishes Us from Weed-like Lifestyles
Part III: Christ is our Hope for a Wheat type Lifestyle

Last week we began our series on the Parables of Jesus and in looking at the parable of the Four Soils, we talked about being fertile soil for Christ and some of the aspects of our lives that we can focus on to help ensure that we make ourselves as available and ready as possible. Today we look at the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds and the idea of making our lives fruitful for Christ and how Christ has committed to help us in that endeavor.

Growing up my father had an affinity for plants. He absolutely loved them. If fact when I was five years old we moved into a new house that sat on a little over an acre of land. Over time my father began to construct and build about nine huge flower beds that bordered all four sides of the house, the four boundaries of the property, and all around and in the middle of the new circular driveway. When he was finished, those beds looked beautiful. There were all types of plants with different textures, sizes, and colors. It really looked amazing. Well it was not long before the inevitable happened and the weeds started to grow. One day I was outside just looking at the new flower beds and my dad came outside, stood next to me, and put his arm around me. We stared at the beds for a while and then he said, you know I love ya boy. And I said yes sir. Then he said good, he winked at me and said you are the newly appointed weed puller and then he walked away. Pulling those weeds became a chore that I quickly grew to hate. There was always a hundred, no a thousand, other things I would rather be doing than hunched over in the hot sun pulling all these little weeds. But I was always told that if I would do a little weeding each week then it would not be that bad. Well, I would keep an eye on the beds with the intention of taking care of it before it go too bad, but it always seemed that they would grow little by little and then one day, before I knew it, bam!, the flower beds would be so overgrown that you could hardly see the plants for all the weeds. Hard as I tried, taking care of those flower beds never seemed to work out real well for me when I tried to do it my way and ignored the weeds altogether. Often times the job just seemed hopeless.

The parable that we read about today looks at the idea of weeds in our lives and points out how those weeds can be damaging and the importance that we be more like wheat than weeds for Christ.

At this point in Scripture we find Jesus still out on the boat in the Sea of Galilee preaching to the crowds and he begins by comparing the Kingdom of heaven to a farmer that plants seeds in a field only to have the enemy come during the night and sow weeds in that very same field. Well when the servants awake the next morning they are just aghast that weeds have been sown in this field and they immediately come and inform the farmer and are chomping at the bit to run out and pull up those weeds. But the farmer tells them no, that the enemy is responsible and that to pull up the weeds would be harmful to the wheat. Instead the farmer instructs them to let both grow and at harvest time they will be separated, the weeds will be burned and the wheat will be placed in the barn.

And like last week we are again blessed to have Christ explain the imagery in the parable a few verses later. He tells us that he is the Master that planted the good seed, or the wheat, and that the field is to represent this world and the good seeds are meant to represent the children of God. Christ goes on to explain that the enemy in this parable is Satan and the weeds that he sowed are to represent the children of Satan.

So what does this mean for us? Well I think it means the first thing we need to do is to be mindful of our actions and state of our souls.

Part I
When something does not go according to plans have you ever heard the phrase but I had good intentions? I think all of us have at some point. And I think that we have all learned that that is not always enough. You see we can have the best intentions in the world but if we are not careful we can produce weeds in our lives rather than wheat. When God created us he gave us the choice to do good or to do evil with our lives. We can stray away from God and from the work he calls us to do or we can follow him. When I was 21 I began working as a manager for the retail superstore Best Buy. It was not long till I started to stray away from God and from church. Working at Best Buy, Sunday was the biggest day of the week for us. It was the day that the new sales ad came out. So we would have to get there about five hours before the store opened in order to have enough time to set up all the displays and change all the appropriate price tags. It was also the day that I had to verify and process all the previous week's time cards for the 120 plus employees that worked there, not to mention it was the busiest day of the week sales wise. Needless to say as a manager I was required to be there. Well as time passed and my responsibilities grew I began to allow the weed of money to overtake my life. The longer and harder I worked there, the more money I would make and I began to drift away from church and began to follow the lure of money. It was not a sudden change of direction. It was very subtle. I began that job with the best of intentions. I accepted that job because it was closer to home. I accepted that job because it paid more money so I could afford to go back to college. However, as my salary climbed, my devotion changed. I allowed money to take me away from God and eventually I stopped talking to him and worshiping him altogether. As I strayed away from my relationship with God and as my walk with God came to a stand still, weeds were beginning to overtake my life. My actions were taking me away from God.

Any number of things can take us away from God and it is not always immediate. Barriers between us and God can grow slowly, almost so slowly that we do not realize what is happening and before we know it, our lives are overgrown with weeds. If we allow any hobby or desire to replace God as the number one priority in our lives, then we begin to run the risk of producing more weeds than wheat for Christ.

Part II
Another lesson we can learn from this parable is that those actions we are trying to be mindful of in order for us to produce fruit for Christ, are important to the work of the Holy Spirit. Going back to our parable we read that the servants become outraged at the enemy sowing weeds in their master's field. They immediately wanted to go out and pull up the weeds, but the master says to wait for they might pull up the wheat while they are trying to rid the field of the weeds.

To help us better understand this image have you ever seen a field of wheat? It is not planted in perfect rows, or evenly spaced apart. It is all grown together in a large group with no discernible rows or boundaries. In fact the weeds Jesus was probably talking about more than likely looked very similar to the wheat while they were both growing together. To have those servants go out and pull up the weeds and not the wheat would have been nearly impossible since telling them apart would have been extremely difficult. The same can be said for us and the Christian example we set. We can claim to be the good seed for Christ. We can go to church, put on the good show, and on the surface look very impressive to other people. But on the inside we might be struggling. Maybe because of our struggles we have stopped doing our daily devotions, maybe time with God and going to church have slipped a little on our priority list, or maybe we have just become so busy that we have not spent time with God in quite awhile. Just like the wheat and the weeds it could be hard to tell a difference between our outward appearance and the inward reality.

But for the wheat and the weeds the difference comes when the weeds begin to bloom and produce seeds that the wheat does not. These seeds are not really useful for much of anything and if our lives are mainly composed of weed type actions then they will not be as useful, or fruitful, as they could be. It is what we produce with our lives, the fruits of our lives, that will distinguish us from the weeds. For example take the way we treat other people. It is so easy to get caught up in our own lives that we can become content ignoring other people rather than interacting with them. And before we know it we can get to place where we really do not want to deal with anyone. People begin to get on our nerves a little quicker or we feel we cannot be bothered by strangers that need our help. However, time after time in the Bible we read about Jesus who stopped what he was doing to heal someone, the woman who had a bleeding disorder, the man that was lowered into a house in the middle of Jesus teaching. Christ showed genuine compassion to those that needed it and that is the example we are called to follow. Maybe we can make a simple phone call to someone who needs to feel connected; or a write a note to someone who is feeling lonely. It could even be as simple as listening to someone while we are waiting in a line somewhere. In Matthew 22:37-40 Christ is being questioned as to which commandment is the greatest and part of his response is that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and one of the best ways to do that is to show it. We need to strive to lead a life that embodies the love of Christ

Part III
I know sometimes we all get the feeling that life is just too hard, there are just too many requirements of our time, or one bad thing after another after another keeps knocking us down and there is no way that we can possibly get our head above water, much less be a good seed for Christ. It almost seems impossible to even keep our own lives together. But this is where we come to the great part of this parable, the part that gives us hope. Remember, at the end of the parable the master of the field tells his servants that there will be a harvest and at that time the reapers will come, separate the wheat from the weeds, and the wheat will be gathered and placed in the barn. So what is so exciting about that? Christ tells us that the reapers are his angels and at the end of the age we will be gathered to Christ and, are you ready?....we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father. Shine like the sun. What a great image! Christ tells us here that we will be gathered up. He tells us that he does care about us and he does love us and that he does have a plan for our restoration to him.

You see, as this parable explains, Christ is not responsible for the bad things, or the weeds, that are sown into our lives. Just like those flower beds that my dad planted that looked absolutely amazing in the beginning; he did not plant any of the weeds that eventually came up. Those came from another source. But Christ offers us hope that those weeds will not choke us out. There were times when I was weeding those flower beds that I thought I could never get it all done. There were too many weeds, too many flower beds, and I was only one person. But looking back, I realized that when I did two things, the chore was manageable and even enjoyable. First, was to stay on top of it, just like my mom and dad told me. The same can be said of our walk with Christ. If we take care of our walk daily, spend time with him daily, listen to him daily, then our walks will bear more fruit and probably be much more enjoyable. For me spending time daily with Christ is such a blessing! It seems to give me a daily peace and the things of this world do not seem to get to me so much. Second, was to ask for help when things got too overgrown. This life is difficult and I do not believe that we were meant to live it alone. The same can be said of our spiritual lives. When we keep focus on our walk with Christ and have others to help us, either via accountability groups, consistent Christian fellowship, community Bible studies, or any other activity where our faith is shared or explored, then it seems our walk and relationship with Christ becomes much stronger and deeper. And it is in those times of fellowship that we build those bonds of connectedness that make this life so much fun!

Just as I pulled those weeds to help restore the beauty to those flower beds, Christ has promised to pull the weeds from our lives to restore our relationship with him and provide us with eternal life, eternal salvation! Even though our lives might look bleak or too difficult there is hope, Christ has said he will come again and gather us up and we will shine like the sun! And we can take great comfort in that promise.

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