December 13, 2012 by JesstheMess
There it was, right there in the veggie patch. A great big bushy potato plant, growing proud and tall above the rest. It was so much bigger and lush than the others, that were only just poking their first leaves through the soil. However, the sight of this lush bush was not bringing delight to the gardener, for it was in the wrong place. You see this potato plant was growing in the midst of the root veggies, in the midst of the row of beetroot. The remnant of the tiniest slice of a potato from the year before had resulted in this good thing being in the wrong place, now no better than a weed. If left it will compromise the beetroot trying to grow. This weed is destined for the weed pile along with the other cute flowering weeds that too hinder the intention of this patch of ground.
This proud presence in the wrong place in my garden reminds me of the good that is bad in this broken world. Jesus dealt a lot with a group of people called the Pharisees. These were very religious men who carefully added boundaries in the form of extra rules just to make sure that they were obedient to God’s law. They knew that God, the Creator, does not tolerate sin. So they made sure they were keeping every little bit of the law to ensure that they would be pleasing to God, to appease Him. These were the good guys. They weren’t ‘sinners’ like the tax collectors who were stealing money or prostitutes… They were seeking to be righteous, which in their eyes was to be someone doing the right things (good) and avoiding the wrong things (bad). Put this way uprightness or goodness becomes a matter of outward conduct without considering what goes on inside us.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus breaks radically from this definition of righteousness. He cuts through the outer behavior of a person and looks at what’s in the heart. Jesus insists that righteousness is not simply a matter of what we do or don’t do but rather a question of why we do or don’t do it. The Biblical view of righteousness is not a behavoristic view that looks simply at the outward action. It always looks within to the motivation of the act. (‘Are You Righteous?‘ Tullian Tchividjian)
Jesus goes from law to law pointing out that at the heart these ‘good guys’ were not actually good enough. That is the whole point of the Sermon on the Mount, we are not good enough, that is how high the standard is. Read it and see. No matter how good they looked on the outside, no matter how good I strive to be, we are still like the potato in the middle of the beetroot patch. No matter how good it looks, how it grows, it’s roots are in the wrong soil and this gardener will not tolerate it. As we discussed in entangled, God, the ultimate gardener, is concerned with our hearts motive, what it trusts. When motivated by anything other than trust in God we fall short of the standard and are destined for destruction, the equivalent to the weed pile, with the worst of sinners.
Jesus does not point out our inadequacies and leave us there. He points them out because He has the solution. In fact He is the solution. He wanted the ‘good guys’, then and now, to see that they couldn’t be good enough. He wanted them to see that the good was bad, so they would seek the solution.
Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was GOOD so that you with your futile good deeds could be good. He paid the penalty of death for all our sins, bad and good. He took our badness and in it’s place offers the gift of His goodness. What do we have to do? Seek Him, follow Him, trust Him, He has done the rest.
You bring nothing to the table except the unrighteousness that makes Christ’s righteousness necessary. The perfect righteousness of Christ has been freely credited to your bankrupt account forever … The gospel is good news for those who have finally been crushed under the weight of trying to make “righteousness” happen on their own. (‘Are You Righteous?‘ Tullian Tchividjian)
Good can be bad, but let’s not be discouraged. Look into the good news, the solution freely offered. A potato planted in the soil the gardener has prepared will flourish and will enjoy the delight of the gardner. Jesus calls us to come to Him. He gives new hearts with deep roots of trust, to those who will follow Him.
This post is a part of a series of posts that explore the realities of this broken world and the hope that it will not last forever.
© J.Smith Photography and ‘illuminating the invisible’ (2012).