Gardening And Sin
Gardening And Sin…
This year Brandy and I decided to take up a bit of backyard gardening. Now if you’d told this born and bred city boy a decade ago, that one day he’d be digging, tilling, weeding and planting, he’d have laughed at you; but whether it’s age, new interests, or simply trying to make my wife happy, I decided to come along for the ride. All in all we had a decent little turn out. We had more tomatoes than we really knew what to do with, though our peppers were a bit lacking. We had plenty of romaine for the first part of the summer, but it ran out by mid-July or so. Anyway, a few weeks ago it was pretty evident that most of the garden had yielded all it was going to for the summer, so in the interest of neighborly relations, I decided to pull it all up and rototill it. (I did this because it’s what the internet said to do, and that’s how we city boys figure these things out.) As I was pulling out tomato and pepper plants, and not a few weeds, it occurred to me that I’d actually learned a few things from this little gardening project that were non-garden related. For your consideration, here are two. I’m sure I’ll not be the first to notice these things, indeed it was their similarity to Christ’s words about seeds and soil that brought them to my mind in the first place, nonetheless, here they are for your benefit.
1. It’s difficult, in the absence of fruit, to distinguish between worthwhile plant, and worthless weed.
Early on in the gardening process, when weeds would begin springing up, but before the garden plants had begun producing vegetables, it was really different, at least to this untrained eye, to distinguish between the two. I spent half of my time worrying I’d just pulled up a pepper plant, or a zucchini sprout. As the summer went by, some of the vegetables we planted produced nothing at all. Because we didn’t really know what we were doing, we kept waiting for them to produce, rather than tear them up. In hindsight I’m sure this was the wrong thing to do, because they inevitably took nutrients that the productive plants around them needed.
It’s not too difficult then, to apply this same truth to the church, and to christians in general. Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares, or his words in Matthew 7:19-20 come to mind…
Matthew 7:19-20 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. (NASB)
I sometimes wonder how much time the church spends pouring energy, resources, and time into people who will never yield fruit. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about “backsliding,” or “nominal” Christians, though I really don’t like those terms. I’m not talking about Christians who have fallen into sin, or who aren’t living up to their potential. We’ve all been there, and we’re thankful for those hardworking, faithful, patient brothers and sisters in Christ who didn’t give up on us. What I am talking about are those people who frankly, are not Christians, but who cannot be convinced otherwise. We know they’re not Christians, because there’s no fruit in their lives, but they hold onto the lie that they walked down an aisle, or were catechized, or were baptized, and they suck the time and energy that could be spent in feeding and growing those who genuinely want to become more mature. The great difficulty as a Christian, is determining who fits in which category, and who to spend your time and energy on. Which one is a weed? Which one is wheat?
2. Weeds are well-protected and hard to get rid of.
Almost every weed I pulled up had an extensive root system, digging both deep and wide into the ground. It reminded me so much of sin. Here was this utterly worthless thing, strangling all the good things around it, ruining the chances of any real, lasting production. What’s worse, they had dug down deep into the soil. They’d wrapped and entwined themselves around vegetable plant roots and fence posts and other weeds. It was a mess. Getting rid of them was careful work because the wrong move meant destroying other, important roots. Interestingly, Jesus told us to go ahead and yank them up, regardless of the damage.
Matthew 5:29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Apparently, according to Jesus, pulling the weeds of sin out, even if it means damaging the plants around it, is preferable to allowing the weeds of sin to remain, and come to large, life-strangling maturity. I’m reminded of the words of James 1…
James 1:15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (NIV)
As I see it, there are two things I can learn from this. First, when I recognize sin in my life, there is no effort too great, in order to get rid of that sin. I don’t know what that looks like for you. Maybe it means you need to stay off the internet, because while you’d like to look at church blogs, what you actually look at is far less wholesome. Perhaps it means you need to spend less, or even no time with that friend, who seems to always drag you into sin. Maybe it means you need to change the music you listen to. I’ll never forget the day I realized there were certain artists that, no matter how much I liked their music at one time, I simply wasn’t going to be able to listen to because of the way they made me feel, the desires they stirred in my heart, or the memories they produced. Or maybe they mean something entirely different for you. I can’t apply these truths directly to you. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. Just know, He is all around us, speaking to us in the simplest of ways, even through our gardens.