I’m sorry, religious folk. I’m about to ask some dangerous questions. Thankfully I have a God who is patient with those learning and seeking and living inside of wonder.
If I’m spiritually starving for anything right now, it’s the knowledge of the “Kingdom of God.” This place of which Jesus speaks, using all these word-riddles to describe it because, apparently, a dictionary definition doesn’t exist. So I went through the first part of the Gospel of Matthew, specifically the 13th chapter, to get a picture. All these parables like colors, individually make a confusing monochromatic sketch, but when layered upon one another, they reveal a rich portrait.
Jesus says the Kingdom is seed sown. But then he completely confuses all farmers in the audience because he said the seed is sown EVERYWHERE. In rocks, on the road, in the weeds. Any good farmer would ask, “why waste the seed?” but not Jesus. He’s a rich farmer and he’ll toss seed everywhere. Something might grow. And anything that grows will be worth the price of the seed.
Then he says the Kingdom is the field with bunches of good crops growing. But in the middle of the night the enemy plants weeds. And it grows, too. Do we start weeding right now? the farmhands say. Nope, Farmer Jesus says. Let it grow. It will sort itself out in the end. You might mistake a weed for a good plant.
Farmer Jesus tells us about the seed. It’s mustard. Teeny-tiny, eensy-weensy mustard. But plant it and it’s bigger than anything else that will grow.
Now, says Jesus, things about that field are about to get crazy. You see, you stumble into a treasure. You find this chest of goodies. But you don’t go get your money and buy this small square in the middle of a large plain. No, no. You buy the whole daggone field. And this is not about real estate ethics. It’s about knowing the worth. Who cares if the whole rest of the field sits vacant and grows weeds. The treasure you found is worth the price of the field.
And now that you have this treasure, it’s time to go shopping. Jewelry shopping. Pearl shopping. We’ll sell it all to find that one thing of sheer beauty. It’s worth sorting through the imitations to find the real thing.
Over and over Jesus admits to the weeds, the emptiness, the uselessness of places. He knows about the work of sorting. But over and over again, he suggests that the treasure found within the mess is worth it.
What if He feels that way about people, too? What if this Kingdom-thing is about people?
What if Jesus says, “Sure. You’ve got a bit of dirt on you. But dig around. I promise, there’s treasure in there. How do I know? Because I planted it. Everywhere. There has to be some growing because there’s not a part of the world I didn’t plant it.”
Now I look at Jesus, all his preaching and his teaching. I look at his audiences and how he treated them and what he said to them. If he ever talked about sin, it was to the religious folk. Those paranoid with the rest of the field. What if a weed grows? What can we spray on that to keep weeds from growing?
But Jesus looks at “the least of these” and points and says, “treasure.” Those that society believed were unworthy, those that bore stigma as a result of assumed sin, Jesus comes to them and says “what a beautiful pearl.” I’ll buy that.
In my survey of scripture, I see Jesus taking the emphasis off sin and onto the goodness that God had created. Sure, he’ll tell the woman, “go and sin no more.” Don’t plant more weeds. Weeds come with a field, that’s just the way the ground works thanks to the tree we chose and some fruit.
Instead, plant goodness. Take those teeny-tiny, eensy-weensy mustard seeds and plant those. Oh, it may seem senseless. In fact, they’re so small you wonder why you’re tossing them about at all. Does it matter if I smile? Does this bit of patience with my child really pay off? Does a second chance, a moment of forgiveness for a friend – will it do anything in the scheme of life?
Ah, but my child, yes. Those will grow into the biggest trees you’ll ever see in your life. Everyone will come for shade, to be refreshed. Friends and strangers flock to it for rest.
BUT WHAT ABOUT ALL THE WEEDS? we keep asking. Who will purchase a weed-filled field? Jesus will. With a cross. With his life. With everything He has.
Stop your pre-occupation with weeds. Just plant mustard. Everywhere. Even among the weeds.