One reason I love summer is the time I get to spend in my gardens. I love the fresh air and warm sunshine, and I see God’s magnificent creative hand in all that grows. Well, except for weeds. They are the gardener’s torment for many reasons. I also find it interesting that we can draw parallels between actual weeds to the “spiritual weeds” that grow in the gardens of our hearts.
Weeds in the Bible
The Bible mentions weeds in both the Old and New Testament and never in a positive light. Here are some Bible weed verses that help us understand the spiritual meaning of weeds.
Jesus told two parables that discuss the spiritual significance of weeds. Jesus lived in an agricultural society and His use of weeds would have resonated with His listeners.
Parable of the Soils
Also known as the Parable of the Sower, Jesus tells of a farmer who sows seed. It fell in 4 places- good soil (where the seeds thrived), a hard path (the birds came and ate it up), a rocky place with little soil (plants that withered because of shallow roots), and among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
Jesus explains that the seed in this parable is the word of God.
“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22.
Our hearts can contain the most fertile of soils, but the danger is in what grows there.
Weeds/thorns (i.e., worries of life, deceitfulness of wealth) left unchecked can choke out the message of His Word and prohibit the growth of fruit we are trying to produce.
Jesus used the word “deceitfulness” suggesting that we may not even be aware of the choking out of His message.
Parable of the Weeds
Jesus continues in this chapter with the theme of weeds. He recounts this parable (also known as the Parable of the Tares) of a farmer who planted a field of wheat. An enemy sneaks in under the cover of darkness and sowed weeds among the wheat.
As the wheat sprouted, so did the weeds. The servants noticed and told the farmer about the predicament. They questioned if they should pull the weeds, but the farmer instructs to leave them in place.
Pulling up the weeds meant pulling up the wheat with them. “Let both grow together until the harvest.” Matthew 13:30.
Gathering the weeds at harvest time was easier. It didn’t uproot the good wheat, and the seed heads were black in color and easy to discern as weeds.
Theologians believe the weed (or “tare”) was the common plant darnel.¹ It looks like wheat but is poisonous. This tactic of sowing darnel in an enemy’s field was even against Roman law!
This parable’s major theme is an illustration of the last judgement.
Jesus explains He is the sower of the good seeds (true believers), and the weeds are “the sons of the evil one.” They may look like God’s people, but only on the outside.
The harvest was the end of the world when God divides His true followers from false believers.
Meaning of Weeds in the Bible
The caution in this parable is twofold. The Greek word zizanion was used to describe the “weeds” who He casts out of His kingdom. It is a word for something false or fake; not what it claims to be. We need to be careful and discerning of false Christians who would cause us to stumble or bait us into sin.
The second caution is to remember that only God can discern between true wheat and false darnel. We should only judge our own hearts, not others. God reigns supreme on this earth and He can change hearts towards Himself. Only God is to judge.
Spiritual Meaning of Weeds
The spiritual meaning of weeds dawned on me when I planted a perennial wildflower garden a few years ago. I scattered the seeds and waited to see what would come up. To my delight, they filled it with a beautiful bounty of all shapes and sizes.
It delighted me the next spring to see all the little green shoots return. But there was a problem: I didn’t know if these plants were weeds or returning flower plants.
I had to wait until they grew before I could tell what they were. By the time I figured out which plants were weeds, they had overrun my garden.
The spiritual weeds in our lives are similar (we all have them.) We don’t always recognize them as weeds. They pop up and before we know it, they’re choking the life out of the things we want to flourish. They also crowd out the space we need to grow our spiritual fruit.
How can we tell the difference?
The Bible tells us several actions/attitudes that are classified as “weeds”- those stumbling blocks, traps, and temptations of our sinful human nature.
•They include jealousy, anger, selfish ambition, pride, envy, greed, lying…. You get the idea.
•They can also be activities or people that take up our time and simply pull us away from Him.
•Proverbs 24:30-31 cautions against the spiritual weeds of laziness and lack of understanding:
“I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles, its stone wall was broken down.” NKJV.
The lazy man’s neglect of his field and vineyard brought destruction. Likewise, if we become spiritually lazy, our souls suffer.
•Spiritual weeds also come in the form of lies we’ve believed about ourselves that come from Satan.
•They can also be shame for past mistakes, or painful wounds that we hold deep inside.
Weeds In Your Life
Spiritual weeds bring consequences. They are like the garden weeds that spread their roots underground like tentacles. For example, jealousy can lead to overspending, or anger leads to relationship issues. Even if you pull up one part of those weeds, they leave their roots underground to keep spreading.
Sin puts down deep roots when left unaddressed. Have you ever neglected a garden area and come upon a tall thistle? Even if you grab it by the stalk closest to the dirt, they can break off, leaving a remnant of its root to resprout. Their roots can grow so deep they can require some deep digging to remove.
“Land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless…” Hebrews 6:8. Farmers had to burn their fields that were infected with weeds so they could start over. We can’t neglect the soil of our hearts and let any of these spiritual weeds put down deep roots!
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All weeds compete with the good plants for sunlight, water, and fertilizer. Plants that are choked out and entangled with weeds cannot produce a plentiful crop of fruit.
If we ignore the weeds, they eventually flower and spread their seeds all over the soil.
Weeds are prolific and persistent! Regular “spiritual weeding” of our life is a must. But beware- this job is never-ending, and it takes effort!
Removing Spiritual Weeds
We need to identify our spiritual weeds for removal, but it’s not always easy.
I recently spotted a delicate and lovely purple bloom on a plant that would look great in my gardens. I snapped a picture of this beauty on my Plant ID App only to discover it was a type of nightshade- an extremely invasive and poisonous perennial vine!
It takes a discerning eye to spot a spiritual weed when we see it.
Discernment is a valuable tool to help us judge right from wrong. It is the perfect “app” to help us know exactly what we are looking at- weed or fruit.
Gift of Discernment
How do we gain this valuable skill?
•By knowing truth from false doctrine. We gain this wisdom by studying His powerful Word and by asking Him for it in prayer:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5.
We have to make space in our lives to meditate and study the word of God. Our prayer life needs to be constant and vibrant.
Weeds crowd out His truth and promises in our minds. We forget He is in control and fertilize our weeds with worry and fear. Knowing and planting His truth deep within our hearts leaves no room for weeds to take root.
The enemy is counting on your lack of knowledge of God’s Word to tempt and ensnare you.
•Know your weaknesses. We each have our unique traits that leave us open to the susceptibility of sin/weeds to grow. Eve thought the apple “was pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6) and Satan used lies and deceit to encourage her to eat it.
“The heart is deceitful above all things.” Jeremiah 17:9a.
Run your desires past the truth of Scripture. Live in community with other Christians to help protect your heart and encourage you in your faith.
Get Rid of Weeds
•Use an effective weed killer.
I have sizeable areas of rock in my yard’s landscape. It’s amazing to me how prolific the weeds can be in those areas. There’s not much soil there and they bake in the hot rocks all summer.
It is there that I spray on a weed killer. It effectively kills all kinds of weeds.
Paul has the perfect weed killer for us- nurturing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives! Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control grow when we live for Jesus.
There is less space for spiritual weeds to take root when the fruit of the Spirit is bountiful. Let the power of the Holy Spirit guide and lead you in cultivating these qualities and swap your weeds for spiritual fruit!
“Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is… Be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:15-17,18b.
Questions for Reflection/Help To Identify your Spiritual Weeds:
1.What commitments in your life are competing with your spiritual life?
2. Are past hurts, lies, or shame still buried deep in your heart?
3. Do you let discouragement and guilt grow in your heart?
4. Are you drawn into behaviors/choices you know you should decline?
5. What distractions, worries, fears, and earthly desires keep you from prayer and Bible Study?
6. Which activities take up the most time and energy in your day? Are any of them weeds?
All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.