You’re either a Summer or a Winter person. I myself tend to look forward to the leaves changing color and the first chill of fall. I’m one of those Winter people. The scorching heat combined with the constant swarm of gnats flying around in your face (it’s a South Georgia thing) make Summer time a burden to bear. But the worst part about Summer is the rapidly growing weeds that begin to sprout all over our yard. Sure, the lawnmower does a fine job of cutting them down to size. After a good grass cutting, it even appears as if the weeds have disappeared. But only for a short time. You cannot simply lop off the head of the weeds and expect to eliminate the problem. To steal a line from Barney Fife, in order to “Nip it in the bud” you have to attack the root. Then and only then will you have any hope of destroying the weed itself.
In modern evangelical circles, this is known as fruit verses root ministry. And sadly, much of Christian ministry is directed at the fruit, or the head of the weed rather than getting to the root of the problem.
Take for example a church that has a shortage of the father’s of families attending. So in order to get more daddy’s to come to church with their families, they decide to hold a daddy and daughter dance. Or a daddy and son fun day. Odds are that the church would have an influx of dads coming to the church on that day. There might even be a few that decide to come to a Sunday morning service for a few weeks. But only the fruit of the problem has been addressed. The root still remains. Therefore, this is not the solution.
Consider a pastor who sees that many couples in his congregation are having marital problems. So in order to attempt to fix the issue, he decides to preach a series of lectures on how to strengthen your marriage. In the sermons, he addresses things like being attentive to your spouse, not being selfish, and learning to forgive the past. And while all of these things are good in and of themselves, the are only addressing the fruits of the issue. Therefore, the root still remains as does the problem at its core.
Many Christians with well intentions witness to others in the same way you would go fishing. They put a nice tag line on Christianity. Something to catch the persons interest. If they are going through a bad marriage, the bait is “Jesus will improve your marriage.” If they are going through financial difficulties, the bait is “Jesus will bless your finances.” And on the list goes. Basically, we offer quick and easy sounding solutions for the fruit, which can be seen and observed. But we neglect to look deeper at the root problems.
The side effect of this is that many people come to Jesus in hopes that their problems will be fixed, and grow discouraged and disappointed when that doesn’t happen.
So what is the root of all of these problems?
The root problem in all marital trials is that Christ is not the center.
The root problem of why people don’t attend church is because Christ is not a priority in their lives.
The reason we are never satisfied is because we don’t find our ultimate satisfaction in Christ.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13.
This verse, especially the final sentence has been grotesquely twisted out of its original context in our world today. When we hear, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, we think of goals or achievements. I have seen sports figures quote this verse as if it pertains to their ability to win the big game. But this is not the context. Paul is addressing something that is foreign to us today. And that is absolute and total contentment in Christ regardless of the problems in our life.
The root of all of humanities problems is a lack of Christ.
Imagine a man who gets caught in the act of adultery. Out of guilt, he goes to see his pastor. He admits that his actions were wrong. But as the preacher continues to press the man, he snaps and says to the preacher, “But you don’t know the woman I have to put up with!”
The adulterous man was willing to address the fruit sin, which is one the surface. But when the preacher began to scratch at the root, he got defensive. The root of his problem was that he was selfish in his thinking. Basically, he was saying, “I deserve to be happy. I deserve better. My wife is not satisfying my needs, so I am justified in finding other ways to meet them.”
He was fine in addressing the apparent fruit actions, but did not want to pick at the root of selfishness in his heart, because his satisfaction was what he treasured most.
Preaching self-help topical sermons will address get rid of the weeds for a time. They may even appear to be gone. But slowly, they will reappear. But the root of our problems stem from a weed infested heart. Our hearts are selfish, pridefully, me-centered, and wicked. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change a person’s heart.
I love how Jesus in the book of Matthew describes a person who has truly seen Christ in their lives.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” Matthew 13:44
Sin is valuing anything as more beautiful than Christ in our lives. Marriages fall apart and relationships crumble daily because people have not addressed the root of selfishness in their hearts and want the desires of their flesh more than Jesus. But when we truly see what a savior Jesus is, that He alone saved us from our spiritual death and rescued us from our own depravity, He becomes that treasure in the field.
From out of the ground of the earth comes the roots of all sorts of weeds. And in the same way, out of the human heart comes the roots of all evil.
“For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.” Matthew 15:19.
James describes the growth process of the root of sin in our hearts.
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:14-15.
The roots of sin grow very slowly. At first only tiny little desires spring from the grounds of our hearts. Then these desires grow into actions, and then actions being to corrupt the mind as what was once only a tiny little sin leads to full blown death. In Colossians chapter 3, Paul commands the church to rid themselves of what we would view as big sins such as adultery, sexual immorality, and impure desires. But Paul also says to get rid of what many see as small sins, such as malice, anger, and obscene talk, and gossip. Why pay attention to the seemingly small sins? Because the roots of evil start out small, but grow into large oaks. Only by seeing Jesus as the true treasure of our lives can all the ailments of our human condition be healed. And only by way of the preaching of the Gospel can the very roots of our maladies have any hope of elimination.