I don't know much about growing crops, but I'm familiar with weeds! I've always been told that weeds should be pulled as soon as possible. The younger they are, the easier they are to remove. Always get the weeds out of the garden so that the vegetables can have all the nutrients from the soil. Weeds aren't pretty to look at, so keep them out of the flower beds. This seems like common sense...until I read the story that Jesus told his disciples about wheat and weeds (Matthew 13:24-30).
In Jesus' story (actually a parable which is a story that illustrates a principle or instructive lesson), he sets the scene in a field. It's a man's field and he has recently planted seeds. Then while that man was sleeping, his enemy came and planted weeds throughout the field. As soon as the man's servants noticed that weeds were sprouting alongside the wheat, they asked the man if they should pull up all the weeds. Surprisingly, the man told his servants to leave the weeds alone. He explained that pulling the weeds now may uproot the wheat. He instructed the servants to wait until the harvest so that when the wheat was fully grown, they could pull the weeds and then harvest the wheat.
When I read a parable that Jesus tells, I'm always trying to find myself in the story. I'm persistently asking "what lesson am I supposed to learn?" and "how should I apply this lesson to my life?" After decades of hearing this story and listening to teachings about this story - I think I've been asking the wrong questions. I don't think that this parable is about me. I'm pretty sure that I'm not supposed to try to find myself in the story.
I skipped over the first sentence.
Matthew 13:24 reads "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field."
Jesus is trying to help his disciples understand the kingdom of heaven. This particular story isn't meant to teach the disciples (or us) how to behave. So I have to resist my urge to identify myself as wheat. I want to be the wheat! (And if I'm honest with myself, I want to label other people weeds!) But that's missing the whole point.
So let's start over.
We're learning about the kingdom of heaven (which is used interchangeably with the term "kingdom of God.") So we also need to resist thinking about a literal heavenly place. I don't think that's where Jesus is going here. Jesus is trying to teach his disciples (and us) about God and the way God orders the universe.
If we go back to the man in the story - the guy who is like the kingdom of heaven (or the kingdom of God) - we see that the man planted good seed. The Kingdom of God is about cultivation. God's universe does hard work to grow something valuable. God's kingdom knows the transformational power of seeds. And God's universe has a long-term vision of a healthy harvest.
That's the vision that drove the man to be patient. He didn't want his servants to pull the weeds and risk the harvest. The kingdom of God is patient. God's universe isn't reactionary. It is steady and hope-filled. It trusts the seeds to grow, even when surrounded by weeds.
Okay, timeout. I wonder why the man (or God's kingdom) didn't protect his field from weeds? Why didn't he have his servants patrol the fields at night so that his enemy could be stopped? God's universe could have done that. But Jesus tells us that the man slept and the enemy planted weeds. What does that tell us about God's universe? I could be overthinking this detail...that's very possible. I don't have an easy answer...just wondering...
Back to the story: If we're learning that God's universe is about growth, hope, and harvest - what does that mean for Christ-followers today in our city? Are we to align ourselves with the kingdom of God? I think so. And the kingdom of God is here and now. (We're not talking about some future place.) God is cultivating now. God is protecting plants and resisting the weeding now. God is - right now - hope-filled and steadfast for the harvest.
As Christ-followers, we are called to live out these kingdom values. We are representatives of God's kingdom to our city. So let's be cultivators. Let's believe in the power of small seeds. Let's always remain hopeful. And let's be invested in the harvest, resolute among reports of weeds.