Raise your hand if you’ve tried the Atkins Diet.Â Or any other extreme, “no cheating allowed” eating plans.Â How’d that work out for you?
Today, we’re going to talk about wheat and tares. Or wheat and weeds, if you prefer. If you’re not familiar with the parable, click the link and catch up.
The most common interpretation of this parable is that it deals with the saved and unsaved souls of men, and that the harvest mentioned is the judgment, similar to the parable of the good and bad fish. However, as this is one of the parables that isn’t explicitly explained in scripture, that leaves it open to multiple interpretations. One of the more interesting interpretations I’ve read or heard is that it relates to spiritual formation, or an older term that’s been a bit misused, discipleship. In short, that it refers to the process of becoming Christ-like, the “renewing of the mind” that is mentioned in Ephesians.
Here’s where I get to pull out a little Japanese philosophy, and tie it in to scripture. I love it when I get to do that. 🙂
The Japanese have a management philosophy (which is really a way of life philosophy that gets misapplied as a “management tool” by the West) called “kaizen.” Kaizen is basically Japanese for incremental, continuous improvement.
Often, you have an area of your life that needs an overhaul. Instead of making small, incremental changes, you determine that you’re going to “do it right.” “Doing it right” means taking time, making preparations, setting the stage, and totally implementing a complete, fully-formed new way of doing things. Starting January 1st, how many people plan to start eating right? (And “eating right” means completely overhaul their nutritional way of life.)
In principle, starting with a “clean slate” on a whole new “total program” approach sounds appealing. We love new starts here in America. Where we trip up is maintenance, staying the course, and finishing strong. We suck at those. But we’re great at new beginnings. So we have a history, as a culture, of starting lots of new projects and when the going gets tough… starting a new, new project. This explains “New Year’s Resolutions” in a nutshell.
But there are a lot of problems with this approach. First, it fails to take into account the shifting, continuously moving nature of life itself. By insisting on completely defining both the problem and solution in detail first, a person can effectively postpone making any changes …pretty much forever. Second, it fails to take into account the complex nature of change and how even a small change can have difficult-to-predict outcomes that then need to be dealt with. By trying to implement massive, all-at-once, “programs” of change, a person is effectively tacking learning the new way, maintaining the new way (building new habits and breaking old ones), troubleshooting the new way (dealing with the inevitable “oops, didn’t think about that”s), and improving the new way simultaneously. In short, it’s a great way to set oneself up for failure.
Which takes us back to the wheat and the weeds. Let’s face it. As messed up as your life may be, it is at least marginally functioning. Instead of a farming analogy, lets deal with something a bit more contemporary. Let’s say you’ve got an old laptop computer. It’s slow. It’s buggy. It’s, generally speaking, a piece of garbage. So you decide that instead of dealing with the bugs and the upgrades, you’re just going to completely wipe the hard drive and install a whole new operating system.
The amount of dread that statement just provoked in you is probably directly proportional to how well you’ve managed “total overhauls” in other areas of your life. As buggy as the old system is, if you lose it, you don’t really know what all you’ll lose. Possibly some good and valuable stuff.
One way of looking at the wheat and the weeds is that the Good Seed is the New Life that is planted in you when you accept salvation. It’s just a seed (perhaps as small as a mustard seed), but it contains the blueprint of the fully-formed and mature “plant”–Christ. Given care and attention, time, maintenance, and effort (all those things we contemporary Americans are not great at, as it turns out) the plant will mature and grow.
What often happens, however, is that instead of focusing on nurturing those new seeds of a better way of life, we focus on “pulling up the weeds” of our bad behaviors.Â Instead of nurturing a growing relationship with our newly-reconciled Creator, we try to “tidy ourselves up” a bit.Â Instead of cultivating virtues, we expend massive amounts of energy trying to yank up our vices.Â And often pull up those tiny, newly-sprouted virtues along with them.
Lots of different “gurus” for different aspects of life have sprung up in the last several years promoting this kind of “little things add up” change.Â David Allen’s Getting Things Done applies it to work productivity.Â Martha Cilley applies it to housework with her FlyLady program.Â Dave Ramsey uses “Baby Steps” to apply it to a person’s finances.Â Jonny Bowden, iVillage’s Weight Loss Coach, advocates the same approach in the realm of diet and exercise.
So, my question for you to ponder is, what small seeds of change can you give some attention to this week?