Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1.11-12 (NIV)
I’ve been thinking about weeds lately. This time every year, if there’s a square inch of exposed soil in my yard there’s a weed growing. Thanks to the winter rains that weed is doing good.
The other day my wife and I drove out to the Texas Hill Country for a tour of the Willow Loop. Thanks to the winter rains the wildflowers this year are AWESOME. Even God rewrote “this is good” to THIS IS AWESOME.
But as I looked at scenes like the one captured in this photograph, I got to thinking. Genesis doesn’t say God created good plants and then created weeds. The Bible pictures God creating, spinning out all manner of natural wonders, awe inspiring feats capped off with divine appraisal—this is good. Bluebonnets good. Cactus good. Cedar tree good. Ash, oak, pecan, all good. God didn’t make a single weed, friends.
Some of that’s hard for me. Like my parents before me, I suffer from hay fever, cedar fever, tree and grass fever. Every autumn, every spring, when God’s creations spew out pollen (their God created way of having sex), I think, this is not good. I sneeze and cough and wheeze and call down destruction on all these bad bad things, weeds of the worst sort.
In the beginning there were no weeds; but somewhere along the line we humans started thinking in terms of good plants and bad plants. We planted and watered and nurtured and came to love the plants we deemed desirable—flowers, fruits, nuts, lawns—while we made another list of everything else; we called them weeds and then set about pulling them up or devising ever more effective poisons with which to kill them.
I don’t have a problem with agriculture. Jesus talked a lot about fruitful agriculture; even when he referred to wheat and weeds, he never said to pull up the weeds. I’m cool with having only wheat in some places. I love bread.
But I’m pretty sure we humans have gone too far. We think in terms of weeds and good plants, then apply our energies to getting rid of the weeds. We think in terms of good art and bad art, then cut funding for bad artists. For too many years now our political thinking has trended toward good Americans and bad Americans and how to weed out the bad. We think in terms of good people and bad people (rarely, if ever, suggesting that we are among the bad) and devise laws to keep the bad ones away, out, or down.
God did not create a single weed, friends. God made all the plants and called them good. We created Roundup. God created humankind and called us good. We created the KKK, Nazis, and all the subtle and not so subtle ways our societies and governments discriminate and oppress. The Bible has lots to say about how we should and should not behave, how we should love one another and avoid sinning against one another. I believe we badly need better thinking when it comes to good behavior and bad behavior, grace and judgment, love and hate. But in the beginning, God created everything; and God saw that it was good. Don’t you think we could try a little harder to see things God’s way? What difference would it make in the world if we did?
All good things to you,
david gilliam, weed pastor, faith united methodist church, austin. for more about faith church, click here.