An August column, “The Weeds in My Garden,” compared weeds in the plant world to those which infest our spiritual gardens. A follow-up piece wasn’t planned, but I had a recurring thought that what I’d written was incomplete. It didn’t feel right to identify a problem without offering a solution.
On the Friday morning of posting that column, I read an article in Growing Georgia about advances in weed control based on genetic codes. Maybe the proximate timing of our stories was coincidental, but I wondered if it was something more. Either way, I decided to address how to deal with weeds in our spiritual gardens.
This isn’t meant to be all encompassing and may not be the best methods for spiritual weed control. I’m not offering a one-size-fits-all solution. These are mostly thought starters, something to help initiate the process if you feel the need.
The ideal approach to spiritual weed control is to not let them get started. Benjamin Franklin is credited for saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He was trying to encourage fire prevention strategies in Philadelphia, but his comment is applicable to countless situations. Rather than having to fight established weeds, our first step should be to keep them out. We do that by maintaining a healthy garden. By nurturing seeds of faith with good soil and stewardship, our gardens will have vigorous plants and produce abundant fruits.
If, however, we’re slack in our efforts to tend our gardens, the vacant spots will be filled otherwise. Weeds of the plant world are constantly looking for open spaces. Even a tiny crack in a city sidewalk will attract their attention. It’s the same in the spiritual realm. Spiritual weeds are thrilled with open fields, but they are also constantly searching for little crevices. The ideal plan includes a firm commitment to keep them out of our gardens. Exceptions always lead to trouble.
But what should we do when a weed, or perhaps several, have taken hold? There are only three choices – embrace, ignore, or fight. Embracement is how they find their way in. It later allows them to flourish and sometimes spread far beyond where expected. When sin is embraced, there’s no cure but grace.
Ignoring weeds is never a viable route. A friend of mine told me about sitting on a creek bank one day fishing. He was relaxed and having a wonderful time until he noticed a moccasin was resting beside him. After weighing his options, he decided to try a hasty escape. Getting up posed some risk by disturbing the snake but disregarding the moccasin would have been a more dangerous choice. Ignoring spiritual weeds is no different. They’re prone to bite rather than slither away.
Assuming we wisely choose to fight our spiritual weeds, a Barney Fife approach is worth considering. Mayberry’s beloved deputy had a memorable line he often employed about crime. No matter how insignificant the infraction, he would passionately plead with Sheriff Taylor, “Andy, we have to nip it in the bud. Nip it! Nip it! Nip it!”
Barney would project how something minor, like letting a kid ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, could lead to a life of crime. Granted, he got a bit carried away, but his tactic is perfect for battling spiritual weeds. We need to get rid of them before the roots take hold and the seeds are scattered.
There’s another saying that seems appropriate: “Don’t ever take a knife to a gunfight.” I don’t know where I heard that, maybe from an old western. I thought about it when a high school classmate named Smitty posted a comment about my earlier column. He said he needed a tractor for his weeds, that a hoe wouldn’t do the job.
Smitty was kidding, but it caused me to think about the importance of the right equipment. No matter how good our intentions are, we can’t get rid of spiritual weeds unless we’re properly equipped. You can read more about that in Ephesians 6:11-18. It begins with, “Put on the whole armor of God.” We can’t successfully fight sin alone, but we don’t have to. God’s armor is ours for the asking.
The options for dealing with spiritual weeds are simple – embrace, ignore, or fight. Choosing isn’t complicated unless we allow it to be. It all depends on what we want to grow in our gardens.