This morning, I got to participate in a community cleanup in Philadelphia. 100+ volunteers from all different age groups and organizations grouped together at 9am and set off with shovels, sweepers, brooms, large paper trash bags, thick working gloves to clean our community.
Our group started out on 11th and Vine St., trying to pull out the weeds in the side walks, in the building cracks, around the growing trees.
As I was pulling out these weeds, I realized, how and why the Bible talks about weeds.
Weeds are bad. Not just because they look quite ugly and unkempt, but because they absorb the nutrients of the host plants that they surround. Whats worse is if you don’t pull out the roots, they will grow right back, and in a very short amount of time.
Weeds are very similar to sin. And we, humans, are the host plants. Sin, like weeds, will soak up our energy, our time, and eventually, our whole lives. The hosts plants need the nutrients to grow, and in the same way, we need our focus, time, and energy to grow. We need to remove sin from our lives. But we can’t just remove it superficially, and still leave the roots there. Like weeds, when we remove sin, we need to remove all of it, roots and all. Otherwise, when the climate and soil is right (when you’re vulnerable and have lowered your defense and self control), the weeds will grow right back, and take over the entire soil, and it would be as though they were never removed.
Some of the weeds that we were pulling up today had been there for awhile. They had thick stems, many branches, tall and had large leaves. It would almost fool you into believing that it was a plant that deserved to be there and was intentionally put there. But upon closer look, we realize its actually a weed. And when we try to pull on it, it wouldn’t budge. There was one which we had to have two people pull on it. There were some that at first, we would accidentally only remove the top of the plant, but the roots were still in, and we would have to pull and dig again and again to get to the roots. There were ones which we had to use the shovel to hack it off. This, also, is very much like sin. When we allow sin to manifest and stay for awhile, it starts strengthening. It strengthens its grip on our lives. It thickens its stems and extends its branches and widens its leaves, to a point that it threatens to take over our entire beings and lives. It becomes very difficult to remove, this sin. It not only takes one person, it may take two, or even more. And upon removal, it may not come out the first time. It may require multiple efforts and many tries before we can get the entire plant out. And if we don’t get the roots out, then this sin, like the weed, will easily sprout again, come next spring. The longer we allow sin to manifest in our lives, the harder it becomes when we try to remove it.
Not only is it harder to remove, it takes the shape as a normal host plant. The sin in our life will try to imitate and look legitimate and acceptable. It will mask itself and look as though it was meant to be there, it will disguise itself from being recognized as a weed (sin). That is scary. Because after while, we will lose our ability to differentiate sin from truth.
Another interesting thing is that these weeds would grow everywhere. Not only in the fertile soil that surrounded the trees (which are the host plants), but also in the sidewalk cracks, as well as in the cracks in between buildings and street cement surface. Which leads to another interesting point. Weeds, like sin, don’t need a lot of tender, love and care for it to grow and proliferate. Unlike a tree, which needs fertile soil, nutrients, sunlight, and care in order for it to grow. Sin doesn’t take much for it to grow. It can seep into our lives very easily. On the contrary, good traits in our lives, such as love, purity, gentleness, self-control, etc (Gal. 5:22), come very hard, with discipline, time, hard work, and effort. Yet with the overgrowth of sin in the gardens of our hearts, it can choke us, leaving us with no more nutrients to grow and to develop these good traits. And soon enough, the sin may even trick us to believe that this was “the way it should’ve been all along” and lure us away from the promises and the goodness and blessings.
Terrifying. Sin is terrifying. Sin is deceptive. It promises happiness which never comes. Just a long winding road of addiction and bondage.