So we’re just supposed to leave the weeds?
by Danielle Shroyer
Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
For Sunday, July 17, 2011: Year A—Ordinary 16
Some advice from Matthew’s Gospel: If you have a terrible sore festering right alongside your healthy skin, just leave it alone, untreated, because by remedying it you might kill some of the good skin, too.
Try telling that to someone with a terrible sore.
Just look the other way!
Weeds. Festering sores. Cancer. Even deep-seated anger. We don’t tend to advocate inactivity in any of these cases. Any good gardener, doctor, therapist, or friend will tell you that the best approach is to confront a problem and do what you can to change it. Trim back the weeds. Treat the illness. Talk out the problem. Nobody in their right mind would say to leave it alone until some undisclosed future time when someone else will come along to fix it for you.
It seems like a recipe for disaster; a sure path leading straight to a volcanic, it’s-been-festering-in-me-for-years-and-I-can’t-take-it-anymore eruption. I can’t imagine that’s a good thing. And yet, Matthew’s Jesus stands here and tells us to do this very thing. Leave the weeds. Don’t uproot them. Let them grow, right alongside your healthy plants, even if your plants suffer and die in the meantime.
Can we at least get an alarm system?
Here’s what I want to know, since I’m mining the parable for loopholes: if we believe an enemy might come to do harm and undermine our hard work, and if we know we won’t be able to do anything about it if that happens, can we at least get an alarm system?
Can we be proactive, even if we can’t be reactive? Can our doors have locks, our gardens have gates, and our bodies have probiotics and vitamins?
Exactly HOW far do we need to push against our own common sense efforts at survival? At this rate, I’m wondering if it would just be easier to sit vulnerably in the middle of a street and wait for a car to run me over.
Have a little faith
Here’s one more thing that’s puzzling about this parable. Any basic commentary will remind you that Jesus is using a play on words here, because the kind of weed he describes is one that happens to look just like wheat. It’s difficult to tell them apart. The lesson implied is of course that we often think we know what we’re doing, but we mistake the wheat for weeds, and vice versa. I’d be the first to nod my head in agreement with this lesson. I admit we tend to fumble around attempting solutions and accidentally creating more problems.
But are we really THAT dumb, that we can’t tell the two apart with a little practice? Any gardener worth her salt can learn entire categories of plant varieties, and you’re telling me there’s no way to learn how to detect the weed wheat-look-alike from the real thing?
Because the very people who brought this weed situation to the master’s attention are—you guessed it—the workers in the field. They caught it immediately, the very next morning. And they seemed to be pretty sure they could root out the weeds with little problem. But the master said, “No, let both of them grow together until the harvest.”
The Hardest Question
The hardest question then seems to be: So, we’re just supposed to leave the weeds?
Danielle Shroyer is the Pastor of Journey Church in Dallas, TX. She is the author of The Boundary-Breaking God: An Unfolding Story of Hope and Promise (Jossey-Bass, 2009) and blogs at www.danielleshroyer.com. Danielle lives with her husband, two children, and two wild and crazy dogs in Dallas.