I wanted to make this morning’s devotion a little more interactive, but it’s important you do your best to not read ahead! Grab a pen and paper to take some notes (or if you’re on your computer you can just open up a blank text document to type some notes). Once you have something to write with, read this passage, and then I want you to write down what you think it means. What do you think Jesus is saying? What’s it saying (if anything) to you? What do you think the imagery means? Write down any thoughts or feelings you have, but really focus on the meaning of this parable just like you would any other parable or verse in the Bible:

Verse: Matthew 13:24-30 (NLT)
24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. 27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. 29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”

For the past few months I’ve been contemplating how I read the Bible. I grew up in a tradition (and still firmly believe) that the Bible is God’s inspired word. However, I was also often told things like all of the Bible is “living” and that pretty much meant all of it “still applicable to this day.” I do believe that the Bible is applicable to my life, but to be honest I think I just misunderstood what those terms and phrases mean… in the past, I thought that meant that Jesus’ parables and all kinds of verses from the Bible could be shaped to apply directly to my life’s situations. So that meant when I read a Psalm I would make it my own personal song. When I read the Old Testament prophets I would apply the good parts of the prophecies over my life (I’m sure many of you at one point or another have heard Jeremiah 29:11 spoken to you or quote as someone’s favorite verse). I essentially thought that the Bible being “living” meant that my interpretation of any given verse that seemed to fit my personal circumstances was “truth” and the intended meaning of the scripture.

There’s a real problem with that approach, though. Applying verses to my life devoid of context might “work” at times, but if I’ve learned anything as a data scientist it’s that just because something seems to fit it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s actually the truth (“causation does not equal correlation”). It also exposed me to a lot of doubt when things in my life didn’t go the way it sounded like the Bible implied they would!

So I’ve been coming to explore the idea that while it’s true the Bible was written for me and all followers of Christ, many/most parts of it weren’t written to me. When Jesus spoke the parable above, He had a specific audience in mind and a very specific meaning He intended to convey. And to take an earlier example — when the Lord spoke in Jeremiah “For I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope” He was speaking to Judah (in exile), not to me while I panicked over my econ exams all those years ago. None of this is to say there isn’t value, meaning, and direction for my life in all parts of the Bible, but it does mean I need to work a little to unpack the context before I understand how it applies to me.

Now, to be clear, this whole concept is still pretty new to me and I’m still trying to unpack what it exactly means or looks like. So far, my takeaway while I read scripture is to just start asking more questions. Things like “Who is this written to,” “Why was it written to them,” “What can I learn from their example,” and “How am I similar or dissimilar to them?” It takes a lot of work and it’s certainly more difficult to read than just taking a verse and saying “this is written specifically to me and it’s about [insert random life event]!” But I’m finding a lot more value and a lot more peace in this new (to me) approach. Now with all that said, here’s the rest of the passage for today!

Verse: Matthew 13:36-43 (NLT)
36 Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.” 37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man[d] is the farmer who plants the good seed. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world,[e] and the harvesters are the angels. 40 “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!