One of my minor claims to fame is that I was at school with prominent organic gardening authority Bob Flowerdew. I have no garden of my own, and therefore no personal interest, but I often listen to ‘Gardener’s Question Time’ on the radio, and always admire the impressive knowledge of all the panellists and their instant answers to listeners’ problems.
It’s always a pleasure to see lovely gardens, especially if you’ve done none of the work! And work is essential. If you have a garden you’ll know that, of course: there’s always something that can be done. One weekend recently, I took a walk past our local allotments and saw many signs that preparations are in hand for next year. There are compost heaps ready to enrich the soil, for example; some plots have already been dug, while others are covered with polythene to kill weeds.
I like Bob’s definition of a weed as ‘a plant in the wrong place’; it fits in with thoughts about certain kinds of sin. Look at Matthew 5:27-28, for example. Sex is a beautiful gift, a pleasure for humankind, created by God for the procreation of children, and as the ultimate expression of love. But in the wrong place, it becomes the sin of adultery. Even in the right place, if it is with the wrong motives or at an unwanted time it can be rape!
Many sins are like that: something inherently good that is distorted in a way that makes it abnormal or wrong. But my thinking about weeds goes further, into the realm of human relationships, and to a challenge that faces people of all ages, and in all walks of life. Maybe it’s one that you’ve had to face. It’s the question of whether you might be a potential weed! I’m not thinking in terms of being weedy of body … or mind, come to that. No, I’m thinking of a weed according to that gardening definition: something good of itself, but in the wrong place.
Diana, the much-lamented Princess of Wales, put it very succinctly when she said, ‘there are three of us in this marriage’. In the lives of any happily married couple, a situation can easily arise when the innocent friendship of one partner with someone of the opposite sex grows abnormally into something that threatens that marriage. If this is realised at the right moment, remedial action can be taken, or voluntary restraints can be exercised to make the situation secure: by one means or another, a weed that threatens the plant’s normal growth has to be neutralised.
The Bible tells us what a great man King David was. But there was one exception to his greatness (1 Kings 15:5). The full story can be read in 2 Samuel, chapter 11, but essentially David played the part of the weed in the garden that was the marriage of Uriah and Bathsheba. Because he was the king, there was no restraining influence on him, and the whole matter played out to its inevitable conclusion. It wasn’t without punishment, however (see 2 Sam. 12:18!)
Because of our human nature, we will never be free of sin although, through the Gift of Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross, we can be free of its penalty. And through God’s guidance – if we listen to Him – we can avoid some of the sins that threaten our lives.
I conclude with some words of my father. He wasn’t a man of great faith, but he was a good and tidy gardener. He left in my memory many wise sayings, for which he has earned my deep respect. This one is relevant as a general rule of life. He said, “Hoe when you don’t have any weeds and you’ll never have any.”