Reading: Gospel of Matthew 13:24-30
24 Another parable He places before them, saying “Likened was the kingdom of the heavens to a man sowing ideal seed in his own field. 25 Yet, while the men are drowsing, his enemy came and sows darnel over amidst the grain, and came away. 26 Now, when the blade germinates and produces fruit, then appeared also the darnel. 27 “Now, approaching, the slaves of the householder said to him, ‘Lord, do you not sow ideal seed in your field? Whence, then, has it darnel?’ 28 Now he averred to them, ‘A man, an enemy, does this.’ Now the slaves are saying to him, ‘Do you, then, want us to come away that we should be culling them?’ 29 Yet he is averring, ‘By no means, lest at some time, while culling the darnel, you should be rooting up the grain at the same time with it. 30 Leave both to grow up together until the harvest, and in the season of the harvest I shall be declaring to the reapers, ‘Cull first the darnel, and bind them into bundles to burn them up. Yet the grain gather into my barn.'”
Today I want us to begin a series in which we look into what Jesus had to say about the Kingdom of Heaven – specifically we are going to looking at what are commonly referred to as the parables of the kingdom found in Matthews Gospel. It’s an important study because these parables are filled with insights into the nature of heaven, and most importantly the principles that govern it. This means that we can build our understanding as to the nature of heavenly life and so begin to examine our own life in the light of this which should give us what we need to help us to bring our life, as best we can, in line with our understanding of what heaven is, and its principles of operation.
The very first thing we need to have clearly fixed in our minds is that heaven is not a place, but a state of mind. When Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven was within – He meant just that. In other words He was showing us that we should not look for a heaven external to our own states of life. To say that heaven is within, might at first appear to be somewhat vague and lacking substance, but that’s due to the difficulty we have of extracting our thought from the idea of a place being more real than that of a state of mind.
But is that really the case? Let’s take an example from the business world. Advertisers work in the intangible world of mental states, creating desires, exciting our passions, and building our expectations in an effort to get us to act in a way that benefits their clients, and these clients spend exorbitant amounts of money to get them to do this. In the world of marketing the creation of a state of mind in those being targeted is more important and more real than the actual product or service, because it is the creation of a state of mind (a state of expectation tied to a product or service) in the consumer that ultimately gets them to act in a way that translates into material returns for a company. To be able to get a person to buy something they don’t need and then feel great about having done so is a testament to the reality and power of states of mind.
Take for example the motor vehicle market. All motor vehicles are modes of transport and if obtaining a motor vehicle was simply a case of getting from A to B then as long as it was reliable, suited our needs in terms of size and utility then something very basic would do – no need for the frills. But from the marketing and advertising perspective no motor vehicle is ever just a mode of transport. In fact when you look at a lot of the ads you would have to say that a motor vehicle is almost everything but a mode of transport – if the advertisers are to be believed then its a vehicle that can transport us into states of happiness, joy, fulfilment, peace, satisfaction and endless pleasure first and a vehicle for transporting us from A to B second. You see from a marketing perspective, they are not selling you a thing, they are selling the promise of a state of life – its not about whether the car will get you from A to B that’s a given, its about how you will feel while driving it – the illusion is that because you have a particular car, that that will translate into a certain feeling about yourself, so you are being sold an experience and what the marketing does is create the illusion that the product or service is the means to fulfilling the promise of that experience. Looking at the ads one could be forgiven for thinking that the ability of a car to actually get us somewhere is an added extra.
The promise of happiness, joy, fulfilment, peace, satisfaction, pleasure, all appeal to something deep with in the human psyche – the promise of these things, which aren’t things at all but states of life, are what really motivate us, these are the things every person seeks. And deep down we know that love or the quality of our relationships is the key to achieving these states of life.
Life on a daily basis is always experienced in terms of our affections, or how we feel. It is the state of our feelings that define what kind of day we have had – so while we live in a material world that seems to be real, the reality of our experience of life is more about where we have been living in our interior world and this is true whether we have much or little in terms of material wealth. If we live our day in feelings of anxiety, suspicion, jealousy, envy, covetousness then we live in a world separated from others, a world where we think that no one can be trusted and all our energy goes into protecting ourselves or our affections from being hurt. Negative states of life always have self at the centre. The irony is that when we are in such states of mind, despite our efforts to protect ourselves, any little thing seems to so easily derail us, being blown out of all proportion, our moods can so easily swing through extremes and we find we are ok one minute and then a comment or change in situation throws us into turmoil the next.
We know that heaven defined as a state of abiding happiness, joy and fulfilment is not found in things in the world, we know that the comfort and pleasure things bring can only ever be temporary. But this is not just true of things; it’s also true of our relationships with others if the other persons are looked to as the means of our happiness. The kind of relationship that looks to another person to fulfil our life is not really that far removed from looking to material things to satisfy our deeper longings. This is because in every case where a person looks to another person for their happiness they make the other person a thing, an object for the fulfilment of their own need, the person to whom we are looking to fulfil us becomes reduced to a possession. This is not love, but self love, where the person is loved for what they can give me. This kind of love is the opposite of heavenly love which is other and not self centred; it is always looking from a genuine concern for the spiritual well being of others. Is it any wonder then that so many relationships reflect the chaos and turmoil of a kind of hell at times?
You see, the problem with the human condition is where we tend to focus inwardly – if the focus is on self then whatever the outer circumstances of our life, materially or otherwise we will struggle to experience heavenly states of life This is because when we are focussed on ourselves we are actually centred on what shuts heaven out of us. When things or people outside of us are looked to as a means of satisfying our deeper needs we are looking in the wrong direction, for heaven is actually within us and must be sought there. This simple truth can have a profound impact on how we function as people. Because if heaven is within, then a search for it in what is external to myself is wasted effort. It also means that the responsibility for our inner states of life, how we feel doesn’t rest with others, or with things, or how a particular situation happens to unfold, it rests squarely with us. We can only be responsible for our own inner states of life – no one else can change this for us, nor can we change the inner lives of others, and any thought we can change or control another person is a road to disaster.
The kingdom of heaven is within you…now, in this moment. Even as the Lord is within you in all His fullness and power. Everything we need, everything that Lord is able to give he makes available for our happiness in each and every moment of our lives, He withholds nothing from anyone, and it’s all there if we truly want it. But He can only give to us the measure of heavenly life we are capable of receiving. If we are focussed on ourselves and our own interests at the expense of others then we are closed to receiving from the Lord a life stream that seeks the spiritual welfare of others. If on the other hand we are looking to the Lord for the sake of others, particularly so that we can be more useful in a way that supports them in their spiritual growth and development, then we open our lives up to a fuller more complete flow of the Lord’s life. It is our openness and receptiveness to this life that results in a growing sense of fulfilment, peace and joy, because to consciously receive this life is to receive heaven into ourselves.
Ok – but what if I don’t feel very heavenly – where does this leave me? I understand that the kingdom of heaven is supposed to be within me – but it sure doesn’t feel like it at times. Well despite how things appear it’s important that we understand this first principle that heaven is a state of life – a state of mind. Because if we understand this then we will begin to focus on our inner world as the place where changes have to occur if heaven is to be in us. We will see that to get into heaven we have to have our minds organised into a heavenly form. Now a mind in a heavenly form is one that is structured around heavenly affections and truths. This restructuring cannot occur in a moment and so we need to understand how the principles of heaven work on this level of life, that is a life in a physical body.
What is wonderful about the parables of the kingdom is that they are written from our experience of the kingdom of heaven while trying to live a spiritual life in this world. We can see this in the one we have had as our reading for today. It has to be because it’s difficult to see how an enemy could ever find his way into heaven as experienced by a person after the death of the body. But we know our seeking to be more heavenly minded in our approach to life that our experience is one of having truths implanted in our minds, these truths being the good seed that is planted by a man in his own field. This field is the mind of those who are receptive of spiritual truths through a willingness to live from them, for truths only develop and grow into goodness or a crop as they are applied to life. But as this crop begins to grow the process involves states of mind in which we are spiritually asleep, in these states of life an enemy sows what is counterfeit to the true crop in our midst. This enemy is the love of self and the world, which in times of a lack of spiritual awareness shifts our focus onto seeking heaven in our own strength through the allurements of the world. The tares or darnel look very much like the wheat until they mature. Then the seeds in the head can be seen for they are black.
The parable teaches us that the false crop is exposed through the growth of the true crop for when what is good and true is known so we have a growing ability to discern what is its opposite, what is evil and false or opposed to the heavenly life. While in this world we will be subject to the effects of what is higher and what is lower growing side by side. When this becomes apparent, that is when we begin to wake up to spiritual life, it causes a level of distress or anxiety for people so that the mind is thrown into confusion. We need to understand this parable if we are to find our way through such times – the servants are those lower thought faculties of the mind that are obedient to the higher spiritual principles of the Lord’s Word, here described as the householder, we see in their statements the kinds of questions that arise in the mind when what is opposed to the kingdom of heaven in our life is exposed. The questions are an attempt to understand how it can be – Lord, didn’t you sow good seed, aren’t you in control, then how can this be, where has these things come from, why do I feel this way toward this or that person, shouldn’t I be more loving, more understanding, where does this anger come from, why aren’t I more compassionate, where is your promise of an abundant life, what’s going on…
In directing these questions to the householder the servants speak to us of going to the Word to understand ourselves and the Lord’s operation in our life better – the first response is to seek the Lord’s will in how such things are to be dealt with, at first it seems that the right thing to do is to root these things out as quickly as possible but such a course of action can cause more harm than good. In the spiritual life there is a danger of becoming so focussed on our evils and short comings that we loose sight of the overall process, of what the Lord is seeking to achieve in the big picture. The servants initial response represents this tendency in us all to be hard on ourselves and we all know that when a person is hard on themselves they become racked with guilt and often experience anxiety and depression, they become self absorbed and struggle to connect with the Lord and others, in extreme cases the potential for good is uprooted with their desire to rid themselves of what they perceive to be their evils.
The parable teaches us that we are in a process, that there are higher principles that govern how we deal with our lower nature. Here we are taught that while we must continually work to examine ourselves, we are going to uncover things that exist within us that are opposed to the kingdom of heaven that can only be removed when the conditions are right. In dealing with our evils we need to come into a level of acceptance that despite the appearance the Lord remains in complete control. That while we must be aware of their existence within us, that we must continue to look to the Lord in our resistance of them, that with some things the proper course of action is to “Let them grow together until the time of harvest” after which all things will be put into order.
So the principles we need to take with us today is that heaven is a state of mind not a place, so its tied to how our minds are organised in terms of what we love most – to be in heaven we need to have heaven built up within us – we have also seen that while in this world we will need to be accepting that there are some things that will not be changed – but that as long as we remain in the Word and looking to do the Lord’s will for our life He will safely guide us through a process where all things will be set in order in their proper season.
HH 17-18 All my experince in heaven bears witness to the fact that the divine nature that comes from the Lord, affects angels, and constitutes heaven, is love. In fact, all the people there are forms of love and thoughtfulness. They look indescribably beautiful. Love radiates from their faces, from their speech, from every detail of their behaviour…The auras that emamate from angels are so full of love that they touch the deepest reaches of life of the people they meet. I have been aware of them a number of times, and they have moved me deeply…Even people who were simple folk in this world have arrived at angelic wisdom and heavenly happiness in the company of angels. This was because they loved what is good and true for the sake of what is good and true. They had grafted these qualities into their lives [while in the world] and had thereby become capable of accepting heaven and all its indescribable riches. People caught up in love for themselves and for the world, however, have no such receptive ability. They turn away from such things, discard them, and at their first touch or inflow try to escape them. They ally themselves with people in hell who are caught up in loves like their own. From the work Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg