Sometimes church people make me crazy! …pause…
Ok, God did not strike me dead. I suspect it may be because sometimes church people make Him crazy too. By ‘church people’ I mean those people who go to church regularly, get involved in activities, and may even hold positions of leadership and oversight, but they are not truly committed to or interested in following the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. Instead they have their own, pseudo-Christian belief systems and personal agendas designed to feed their egos, puff up their pride and build their own ‘kingdoms’, while giving every appearance of being the real thing. They are tares.
Tares, or “bearded darnels”, are weeds common in the Near East, which have poisonous seeds that cause dizziness and sometimes death if swallowed. The real danger with darnels is that they look so much like wheat that it is almost impossible to tell the difference until it begins to ‘head’ close to harvest. To protect the actual wheat, farmers will leave these weeds to grow with the crop till harvest time, when they are easily separated by winnowing and passing through a sieve.
Jesus told a parable, (which, my Sunday school teacher told me, is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning”), about a man who sowed good wheat seed in his field, but later his enemy snuck in and sowed tares, among the wheat. When it was discovered the farmer was asked if he wanted these weeds removed from among the wheat.
“But he said, ‘No. Lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” Matthew 13:29-30
Judas was a weed. He lived and walked with Jesus for three years; listened to Him, watched him do miraculous things, and did miraculous things himself when Jesus sent them out in pairs across the Judean countryside. (Mark 6:7-13). The man looked and behaved like wheat, while secretly nursing his own greed and selfish ambitions, and calculating how he could manipulate others, even Jesus, to fulfill his own desire for power and influence.
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of Jesus’ time; wielders of power and influence in the synagogue (church), but most of them were self-righteous, judgmental weeds. They had long since abandoned true devotion to God, and instead were focused on holding on to power and influential positions, while sustaining their highly lucrative ‘business’ of manipulating and controlling others by exploiting their desire to serve God. Then along comes Jesus, exposing their scams and calling them out as hypocrites and fools in front of God and everybody.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves; and when others are going in, you stop them…
…(you) have neglected the weightier matters of the law; justice, and mercy and faith…
…you strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!…
…you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence…
…you are white-washed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness…
…you snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?” Matthew 23:13-33
Remember, Jesus was not talking to the “bad” people. He was talking to the ‘church’ people! And, as my friend Lisa would say, He was hot mad! Six times He calls them hypocrites and throws in ‘blind guides’, ‘blind fools’, for good measure. He was not being subtle, diplomatic or politically correct, and with good reason. These people were so far gone that one Sabbath they watched as Jesus healed a man with “withered” hand in the synagogue and were angry because in their perverted belief system, Jesus was ‘working’, and of course you were not supposed to work on the Sabbath. They left the synagogue and immediately began conspiring to kill him. (Mark 3:6). Hmmmmm. So lemme see. Heal a man’s hand on the Sabbath and you are scandalous, evil and a threat. Plot to kill an innocent man on the Sabbath, and that makes you righteous? See? That, right there is why church people make me crazy!
Fast-forward a couple thousand years and the spirit of Judas and the Pharisees is still alive and well, getting up on Sunday morning and going to church; acting like wheat until it is time to produce life-sustaining behavior, then all you get is poisonous actions that make you dizzy and confused about God, and could kill your spiritual life. It is still not easy to separate wheat from weed, and the risk of damaging the real thing while trying to uproot the fraud is very real. But all will be well, because the Lord of the harvest knows wheat from weed, and when the time comes for the final reaping, the wheat will end up safe in the barn, and the weed is going to the burn pile.
So, here’s the thing, Jesus had good reason for saying, “Come follow me”. He is the perfect One, and everything He says is absolute truth, and absolutely trustworthy. So while we wait for harvest time, do not be deterred from following the teachings and example of Jesus Christ because of hypocrites, fools or weeds, because;
“…the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His…”, 2 Timothy 2:19
And, for heaven’s sake, constantly monitor your own motives. Do not let the love of money, insecurity, arrogance or stubborn pride, turn you into a hypocrite, a fool or a weed. As my youngest daughter often says,
“Check yourself before you wreck yourself!”
…and just live the thing.