Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43
If you were here with us last week you’ll recall that we talked about planting seeds. This week we’re going to talk about pulling weeds. By the way – how many of you like to pull weeds? Boy, have I got a job for you! We could use some volunteers around here to pull weeds in the landscaping. Have you noticed? Please – and I’m serious about this – see me after worship if you can give an hour sometime to help pull weeds.
Having said that, weed pulling is not an easy job. Even Jesus – in our reading today – tells a parable – a teaching story – where a landowner tells his servants not to pull the weeds from the field. His point is that the wheat that has been planted – and that he wants to grow – might be pulled up along with the weeds should the servants decide to pull the weeds from the field. The landowner’s solution is to say, “Let both grow together until the harvest.”
Jesus explains this parable to his disciples this way: “The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
So the weeds are pulled up at the final judgment and thrown into the fire. Jesus tells us that the weeds represent everything that causes sin and all who do evil. I think I speak for all of us when I say, when it comes to the final judgment, I know for sure I don’t want to be a weed. Anybody here want to be a weed? I didn’t think so.
I don’t want to be a weed, because weeds are those whom Jesus says are “evil doers.” And I KNOW that I am not an evildoer – therefore I can’t be like one of these weeds that Jesus is talking about. I mean – after all – I am a pastor, don’t you know! AND I’m a good Christian. So…so…so, so wait. What DOES Jesus mean by evildoer? Where is the cut off line? I mean, I’m not a terrorist. I’m not a murderer. I’ve never done any of those really bad things you read about in the newspaper.
I might tell a fib once in awhile. I might be envious of the guy down the street with his flashy new sports car. So just where does God draw the line when He’s talking about these evildoers?
I don’t think there is a line. When the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God?” is he right? Yeah. Of course he is. We’ve all sinned. And I think it’s important to ask right now – if that’s the case – if we have all sinned, and if we all fall short of the glory of God – is there any hope for us?
You bet there is! And it’s all because of Jesus. Through His life, death and resurrection, God forgives – God forgets – AND God gives us a new life and a fresh start. It is as if He turns us weeds into wheat.
Now, I know that in nature that can never happen. A weed will always be a weed, and wheat will always be wheat. So the parable only tells part of the story at this point, because the way God works – the way Jesus operates in our lives – is to turn our weed-like lives into good wheat that produces good seed. That is our hope.
Now – having said all that – let me take this analogy of weeds a step further than the parable itself takes it. If we can let the weeds stand for all those bad things in our lives that we DO have some control over – wouldn’t you pull those weeds before they became deeply rooted and much more difficult to pull?
When doing pre-marital counseling I almost always tell couples not to let their little problems become big problems. I invite them to come to talk to me or somebody else if they need to. In other words – recognize the weed – pull the weed – before it becomes deeply rooted.
And I know that we don’t like to talk about some things in church for fear of being labeled judgmental – but what are some of the weeds that can be nipped in the bud if dealt with early enough? What are the weeds that if left to grow unchecked are those things that ruin relationships and destroy lives? Again, at the risk of sounding judgmental – let me label some of these weeds. And I’ll tell you right up front that I like a bottle of beer or a glass of wine most evenings, but alcohol can be a problem. So can tobacco products, gambling, pornography, adultery, illegal drugs or inappropriate use of prescription drugs, especially those that are prescribed for pain. This is a real problem!
Again, I’m not pointing fingers. I’m not beating up on anybody – I certainly don’t want to come across sounding judgmental – and the last thing I want to do is scold. Preachers should never scold – at least not from the pulpit.
But maybe we SHOULD talk about these weeds more often. Whatever weeds that we have some control over that ruin our health – our relationships – either with God or with others – our jobs – and our lives. And I want to state publically that those whose lives are being choked by these weeds are, for the most part, not bad people. In fact, they are good people – people who just haven’t been careful – people who thought, well maybe just this once. People who just didn’t realize that they had walked into a field of weeds. And we all – we all need to be careful not to pass judgment on them.
It was F.B. Meyer, I believe, who once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are two things we do not know: First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin. And second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her. We also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances. So rather than judge and condemn, the proper response is to be of help.
Because hey! It happens. It happens to good people. A few wrong turns here and there – a few bad choices – and suddenly a person is starting to look more like a weed than wheat. So let’s call a weed what it really is – a weed. Let’s learn to recognize those weeds – and learn to pull that weed before it develops deep roots. Doing that is an essential part of living not just a successful life – but the abundant life that Jesus wants to give us.
The good news is – is that you and I can recover from the bad choices we make. We can! With God’s help and with the help of caring Christian friends and family – we can get our lives turned around. It takes work. It takes perseverance. It takes support AND it takes forgiveness – God’s forgiveness – and maybe most importantly – it takes you forgiving yourself. It takes you forgiving yourself!
So maybe this is a good time in this message to remind you that God’s not mad at you. Let me say it again. God’s not mad at you! It might sound like He is based on this parable. Almost sounds like God is anxious to bundle up those weeds and throw them into the fire. But no. God’s not a tyrant. God is in the Good News business. Remember?
And that Good News is this: God is anxious to forgive. God’s great desire is to forgive. That’s what God does. And when God forgives – what does God do? God forgets. So here’s the thing. God is not anxious to punish us for the wrong choices that we might have made at some point in our lives. I’ve gotta tell ya, one of my favorite Bible verses is, “Do not remember the sins of my youth.” I know we’re Lutherans, but can I get a loud “Amen” to that?
What I want you to hear today is that God offers us – God offers you – forgiveness and the opportunity to start over. God’s great desire is to free you – if you have made a mess of your life – God wants to free you from that mess.
It’s like a man who one day was walking through a park, and noticed a massive oak tree. A vine had grown up along its trunk. The vine started small; nothing to bother about. But over the years the vine had gotten taller and taller. Now the entire lower half of the tree was covered by the vine’s creepers. The mass of tiny feelers was so thick that the tree looked as though it had hundreds of birds’ nests in it. The result was that the tree was in danger. This huge, solid oak was quite literally being taken over; the life was being squeezed from it.
But the gardeners in that park had seen the danger. They had taken a saw and severed the trunk of the vine one neat cut across the middle. The tangled mass of the vine’s branches still clung to the oak, but the vine was now dead. That would gradually become plain as weeks passed and the creepers began to die and fall away from the tree.
No matter what kind of weeds are growing – no matter what kind of vines are choking the life right out of you – I want you to know that God is in the weed pulling business. If you let Him, He will help you to recognize those choking weeds – and give you the strength, energy, resources, and the desire to pull them out.
I know it’s not easy. On your own it’s not easy. That’s why God recognizs our need for a Savior. That’s why God is our Savior. He is the One who tells you that you are loved –that your life is special – and yes, that the choices you make do matter.
So let me challenge you to ask God to pull the weeds that may be growing in your heart. In addition to all those harmful things I mentioned before – how about these weeds? Bitterness, envy, lust. An unforgiving spirit. Heck – the list goes on and on – but you know. You know which weeds are choking you.
So put a name on it – put a name on the weed – or the weeds – that are choking the life right out of you – and turn them over to the Lord. Let Him put a little spiritual round-up on it – and get rid of it.
The reason God hates weeds – the reason why God hates sin – is because sin separates us from God. Sin hurts people! Sin hurts us! Sin hurts you! The sins that destroy people – destroy families – destroy relationships – these are what God wants to pull from our lives and throw them into the fire.
Pulling weeds is God’s job. Staying away from them is ours. Amen