One day, when I was up on a ladder at our first house, I spotted a plant growing at the corner where two gutters came together. (Obviously, I didn’t clean out our gutters very often.) The plant wasn’t just a few sprigs, but was well on its way towards growing into a sapling or bush. I asked my wife, the plant expert, if I could plant it in the yard. She said, “It’s a weed”, but eventually relented. I don’t think that we ever figured out what exact kind of plant it was, but it took off and grew into a significant bush out at the edge of our yard before it was “removed” (uprooted by my wife, whose attention to our garden is much better – and wiser – than my own).
In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus told a parable about seed that was planted, but then had weeds mixed in, later on. These weeds were allowed to grow up with the good seed (wheat, in this example), and were sorted out at harvest time.
Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
“The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
“‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
“‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”
Matthew 13:24-30 NLT
I believe that this parable refers to those who are genuine in following Jesus, while living right alongside those who either 1) don’t follow Him, or 2) just pretend to. In your life, your goals and desire to live according to Jesus’ calling may be challenged by those around you who don’t share the same purpose. That is a challenge, but you’re not alone in it. God has reasons for not removing those people from your life, and will help you grow wherever He has placed you (although He does sometimes “transplant” us, in various seasons of our lives).
Worse yet, though, are those weeds – like the “Gutter Plant” – that we intentionally cultivate. Sometimes, we let bad habits, unhealthy relationships, or false fronts grow up in our lives; even when – if we pause, step back, and think about it – we know better.
In the same chapter as the passage above, Jesus told a parable about growing seeds. You may know this as the Parable of the Sower (or Seeds, or Soils), or it might be new to you. In Matthew 13:22, Jesus talks about the seed (God’s Word) that falls among thorns, which include worries and a desire for wealth.
The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.
Matthew 13:22 NLT
These are the Gutter Plants that threaten our spiritual walk. Sometimes, they start as outside influences, but when we buy into them and adopt them as part of our lifestyles, we’re helping forces that are working against the better life that God designed us for.
What grows up and starves out our ability to stay on the straight and narrow path? What pulls good resources away from what we need to grow? There may be negative influences around us that we can’t change, but we can set our own lives – our own gardens, so to speak – in order. May we do some careful cultivation in our lives today, and get rid of a few weeds that we’ve been protecting, but which need to be uprooted and tossed out.