I guess we’ve all seen the documentaries where, in some thick rain forest, someone has discovered the ruins of some ancient civilization. The scene is one of crumbling masonry that has been almost totally overgrown by vegetation. The jungle now has a stranglehold on the remains of what was once a thriving human settlement.
I can relate to that in a fresh way. When we moved to our new location in March last year Merle and I spend quite some time cutting down that intrusive weed, lantana… and the even more intrusive prickly pear. We took loads of it to the tip and burned more in a heap in the paddock. Last week I noticed that after all the December rains it’s not only the grass that has grown. The weeds have done even better. There were new lantana plants that were already knee-high and prickly pears are coming up everywhere.
I did some reflecting on that and noted how quickly the jungle takes over. Genesis 3 reminds us that lantana and prickly pear are part of the curse that came because of man’s sin. Okay… in some climates lantana makes a nice garden plant that doesn’t run rampant. And I’m sure that there is a place (somewhere?) for prickly pear too. As someone once remarked, “Weeds are good plants in the wrong place.” But the point is that unless we stay on top of things the weeds very quickly take over.
Isn’t all this a powerful metaphor of our spiritual life? Jesus spoke on one occasion of a farmer who sowed wheat in a field but an enemy came and sowed weeds amongst the wheat.
That was a big-picture parable of the Kingdom of heaven, but there is a sense in which it is true also in the personal life of each of us as Christians. The devil loves to sow the weeds in our hearts and minds – and the scary thing is how quickly “the jungle takes over”.
I was thinking about that after a conversation with an elder from another church just after Christmas. He was telling me about a man we both knew, who grew up in a Christian home, went through all the regular disciplines of Sunday School and Church Ed classes, professed his faith before the congregation and married one of the young ladies in his church. But one day he announced to his family that he didn’t believe “all that stuff” anymore and that from here on he would not be attending church or leading family devotions. His family were understandably shocked.
What happened to this man? And what happened to so many like him? As I see it there is a sense in which “the jungle took over”. I know for a fact that this man was lax when it came to the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer and worship. It’s so easy to let the “weeds” of doubt and sin fester in our lives and not uproot them.
In Proverbs there is a lament about a farmer who lets the jungle take over. “I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.” (24:30)
Solomon was merely commenting about those who are too lazy to stay ahead of the thorns and thistles in their paddocks. But surely it is even more tragic when we allow spiritual weeds to grow in our lives.
The writer to the Hebrews warns us not to even begin to let the jungle take over. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (12:15)
The new year has started and perhaps you made some New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you’ve already broken a New Year’s resolution… or two! If you’re still looking for something to resolve to do this year then make a resolution to be a better farmer or gardener—spiritually that is—and deal with the weeds that the devil keeps sowing into our lives.
One of the things I’ve learnt from gardening is that weeds don’t get anywhere near the chance to take hold if you look after the good plants and keep them thriving. True, some weeds do still sprout and grow underneath my bean plants but they don’t do anywhere near as well as the weeds in the vacant plot.
Maybe that’s a reminder that the good works which we do in faith, are one of the ways in which we make sure that the weeds don’t do so well in our lives.
May I encourage you as we get back into the routine of things for this new year that we make every effort in God’s strength not to let the jungle take over.