Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’” (Matthew 13:24-27)
In the Parable of the Weeds, Jesus is describing the world, heaven, and the end of days. But often our hearts and minds are described in similar terms. We use phrases like “seeds of doubt” when we start to worry. Therefore, today, I want to look at this parable on a more personal level.
Imagine your mind like a field. Most of us naturally want to do good; and often our thoughts will grow and blossom if we nurture them. However, it is very easy for negative thoughts, specifically worries, to choke out what should be a field of plenty. Worries can bring us down and make us feel powerless. A very bright and happy person can be destroyed by worry. Some people’s brains seem to be tuned to worrying all the time. “But wait, why do we worry? I thought god wants the best for us.” He does. The devil, however, does not. So in this parable, we can read that God sows into our heart visions, dreams, and great ideas. However, when we are “sleeping” (that is, not paying attention) the devil comes and tries to mess it all up.
What does God think of all of this? What can we do about these seeds of worry? Is there anything we can do? I think these are all important questions. First though, let us get to know our enemy. In the Bible, and indeed our lives as well, all evil comes from one place: the Devil. In as much as God loves us, the Devil hates us. The Devil hates you. He doesn’t care about you. Since the beginning of man he has had one goal, separate God and us. He will stop at nothing to accomplish this task, no matter what he has to destroy. And he is not above attacking each one of us personally. Even if he can cause one soul to leave the Lord, he feels a great victory. To understand his mind, let’s take a look at what he says in regards to Job,
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:9-11).
You can hear the Devil’s jealousy as he plots against Job. But as we know, Job does not curse God after his first round of troubles, so Satan tries again in Job 2:4-5, “’Skin for skin!’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’” The Devil will do anything to cause us to lose faith; he will stop at nothing to do this. He will destroy your life and everything in it just to turn you against God. And for what? Just so that you are as miserable as he is.
The Devil has been trying to destroy us, even from the beginning; he first appears in Genesis 3:1 where he is trying to separate people from God even in his first verse, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?”’” In this first appearance he is in the form of a charismatic snake. He is crafty, that is, he is sneaky. The Devil snuck into the garden on his stomach and quietly talked to Eve. This is the Devil’s greatest power: craftiness. Think of it this way, if the Devil came, knocked on your door wearing a shirt saying, “I am evil,” I would hope you’d tell him to go elsewhere. But he doesn’t go through the door, God wouldn’t let him. Oh no, he doesn’t knock either, he sneaks into our hearts. Jesus warns about him in John 10:1, “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” This is exactly what the devil does; he finds other ways to ruin us than coming to our door.
Satan’s most powerful way to get us is through what we care about. He turns our cares into worries. He plants his seeds of doubt. And Paul reminds us, “Do not be mislead: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Worries can turn good, healthy cares into something ugly. Satan knows how to manipulate your mind if you let him. First he attacks something you care about. Then suddenly it seems difficult to handle, and because the big things turn hard, the small things start to look bigger than they are. So your priorities go out the window and you can’t focus. -“There are so many things to do, I don’t have time, I don’t have resources, I am totally screwed, this is impossible. OH MY GOD! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME!?”- The devil just scored a point. We’ve all be there, maybe you are there today. Please, dear friend, calm down.
There’s a book (and a movie) called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” The story focuses around a book that is basically an encyclopedia for the whole universe. The focal point though of this “guide” is that in big letters on the back is the phrase “Don’t Panic.” Honestly, the Bible should have this feature. While reading the Word, especially the New Testament, we are told over and over, “don’t panic.” Here, listen to what Jesus says in John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” Jesus says “Don’t panic, you have the Creator of the universe on your side and his ever-merciful son too.” He also tells us, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26) Jesus reminds us that we have very little power in most situations and so worry helps nothing. So don’t worry about things, don’t let the devil get to you. Worrying isn’t going to help anything. If you’re losing sleep over a problem, how can you solve it? You’re too tired to do anything! Just relax, don’t panic. “But Jesus!” you say, “This situation is impossible! It’s too hard! What can I do?” Maybe for you, yes, it is too hard; but not for God: “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
We need to remember that as Christians, we’ve got the power of the Creator of the Universe on our side and God realizes what we need and he can certainly help us. God is able to cover our most basic needs, and he can be there for a whole lot more. In fact, Jesus explains exactly how God feels about our worries,
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:31-33).
Jesus tells us not to run around worrying about things. God knows our needs and by focusing on our worries we are putting ourselves on the same level as pagans. First, we do this by degrading God’s power. When we are worrying we are saying to God that our problems are too hard for him. This is not true at all. And it is actually insulting to Him who made us. Second, it puts God below the world. God should always be our focus. As we live our lives we should seek to please God. By putting our efforts into God first, he will pour out his blessings onto us. So why worry about worldly things? Instead, let us focus on giving our thoughts, time, and whatever else to
God. For Jesus says,
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).
So don’t worry, think about God, and he’ll think about you. And when God is thinking about you, great things will happen in your life. In short, throughout the Gospel, Jesus says, “Don’t panic, God has you taken care of.”
“Ok, I understand that God is holding my hand and can take care of my problems, but I still have worries. What can I do?” Troubles will come and troubles will go. I am not expecting any of us to be without worries. As people, it is natural for worries to come because there are a great many things we care about. What I do ask though, is that you try to cut the devil off when he tries to sneak into your mind. The Bible says,
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Peter tells us that worry is waiting to devour us. When the devil brings his worries, we need to be alert to him. We need to open our eyes and realize what he is trying to do. You are not the first person to have this problem, nor will you be the last.
When trouble comes, remember that you are not alone. Talk to someone about it; friends, relatives, pastors, anyone you trust. Maybe they will understand your problem and can give you advice. And if you are afraid to talk to anyone, or you lack a person to talk to, bring it to God. For James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). It doesn’t matter what your problem is, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done; by turning to our Lord he’ll be there to help. He’s not going to judge you or look down on you. If you seek him, he will help.
So, what must you do? Paul tells us to “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). Be on guard against the devil. Stand firm and when you see him coming, tell him to go elsewhere. Why? You have God and you’re not gonna let the devil have his way with you. Keep your eyes open, paying attention to when the devil tries to plant his seeds of worry- because he will come. But when he does, be strong, for you have the Lord on your side. We’re told in Ephesians 6:11 to “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” God is your protector. He is your armor against the devil. Satan can’t touch God, so if you wrap yourself in God’s armor, you can fight against the devil in your mind and in your life. Just remind yourself, “I’ve got God on my side, so the devil has no place in me.” Never forget, the Lord is on your side, no matter what.
The Bible says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Peter hits it right on the head. Do you have troubles? Send them to God. Our Lord not only can help, but he actually very much wants to help you. Seek the Lord and he will help you with your troubles. For it is written, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus is inviting us all to call on him for help. God is always with us, ready to help in all troubles.
We read in Psalms 18:2-3,
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call to the Lord, who is worth of praise,
And I am saved from my enemies.
David leaned on the Lord and became a great king. Put on the shield of the Lord and tell the devil to take a hike. Solomon tells us,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him,
And he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Just trust that God knows what he’s doing. If you really trust God and have faith, then you know that in the right time, the Lord will take care of your concerns. So don’t worry, don’t let the devil get to you. Stand firm against Satan and trust in God. For as James writes,
As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The lord is full of compassion and mercy (James 5:11).
The devil will do all he can to separate you from god and destroy you. But, if you stand firm and keep the faith, God will not only help, but make things better than ever.
I want to end things today by looking at an earthly example. A man whose example we can follow. As a Jew, Paul’s life was pretty good. He was at the level of a Pharisee, his education was great, and he came from a good family. But after meeting Jesus, things changed drastically from him. However, he wouldn’t give an inch to the devil and stood by God, his rock. And surely, Satan tried to ruin him, much like Job. Paul writes of all the hardships he endured in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28,
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Paul had a lot of things to worry about, but he trusted God. Many of the letters we have from Paul were written while he was in prison. Yet even in chains, Paul never gave up, and in fact spoke quite strongly on God’s mercy. He always stayed positive. What was his secret? Let’s listen to him,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
He continues, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Then, wrapping it up, we read,
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things (Philippians 4:8)
From the prisoner in Christ to you, these are words to live by. Don’t worry, pray and God will help you. Keep your mind on all of God’s wonders and the great things in life, no matter how simple. Praise God for what you do have. Try these and see what happens, for it is written, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Considering that all of this came from a man in prison (just for talking about Jesus, mind you), I think we should listen to him. Paul didn’t let his troubles get him down, and the Lord was always with him. Pray, rejoice, and focus on the good. God wants us to be happy at all times.
So brothers and sisters, I want you to stand your guard for when the devil comes- and he will. Keep your eyes open, and when Satan comes to turn your cares into worry, tell him that he has no place with you. You can trust in God, he is your shield and your provider. Don’t lose sleep over small things, God will help you. So feel free to smile and laugh, and think of the great things in life. Don’t let the devil’s weeds choke you’re your good crop. When the devil comes; pray to God for help, for strength, and for assurance. The Lord is there, he cares for you, and he will help you if you let him. Jesus loves you very much. He reminds us in Matthew 10:29-31,
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.