Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” -Matthew 13:24-26
There was once a very well-kept yard, landscaped and carefully gardened. The homeowners delighted in keeping a variety of trees, bushes, and flowers. Then, one day, the homeowners took jobs in another state, moved away, and sold the house. The new homeowners weren’t very fond of gardening. It wasn’t that they deliberately ruined the yard. They just didn’t care to keep it up as the previous homeowners had. Weeds crept into the lawn. Bushes became overgrown. “Volunteer” trees sprang up in the flower beds. Dangerous plants, poison ivy and the like, began to grow. Through neglect, what was a beautifully kept yard became a chaotic and unpleasant mess.
We all know that weeds grow easily when they’re left to their own devices. And the more weeds there are, the more quickly they spread.
While thistles and creeping charley might not hurt a person’s faith like they hurt a grassy yard, there are other sorts of weeds that can grow in our hearts and choke out the good things the Holy Spirit is planting there.
Take jealousy, for instance. It might start out small: wishing you had the money or the family or the job that someone else has. Jealousy grows from small seeds into bitter resentment at anyone having what you lack, and once it’s taken deep root, it is hard to remove. Even getting whatever made you jealous in the first place is no solution: it’s as if a vine is removed only above ground, leaving the roots in place to send out another shoot. Only pulling jealousy out by the roots, believing that what you have is enough and that happiness cannot come from acquiring things, can that weed be removed.
Or gossip, another weed, though a bit more like a dandelion. It’s not hard to pull out, but it grows impossibly fast and spreads wherever the breeze carries it. A single rumor can spread even more quickly than a wind-tossed dandelion, and with terrible effect.
These and other weeds can spring up in our hearts and minds when we least expect it, especially if we aren’t paying attention. Any gardener will tell you that a yard cannot be established once and then left entirely to its own devices. A garden needs attention from a gardener; so, too, do our hearts require our attention if we hope to produce a good harvest.
First, we need to pay attention. Is resentment growing in our hearts? What about jealousy or anger? Where did it come from? A homeowner cannot control their neighbor’s yard, but they can tend carefully to the border. If we notice that we are surrounded by weeds, whatever their form, we need to watch carefully that they don’t grow in us. In some cases, we might even need to move ourselves away from influences that sabotage to be nearer those that support our characters.
Second, we need to be deliberate. When I wanted to grow tulips, I planted tulips– AND I watched carefully for clover trying to grow where the tulips had been planted. If I wish to grow in generosity, I need to find opportunities to be generous even as I watch for weeds of selfishness or greed.
Third, we must remember that it is God who makes good things grow in us. Through the Holy Spirit living in us, we produce good fruit. Jesus is the gardener who prunes away what should be pruned and nourishes what needs to grow.
Gardening God, plant only what is good and pleasing to you in my heart. Help me weed out those things that hurt me, my neighbor, or you. Amen.