Chaff: 1. the seed covering and other debris separated from the seed in threshing grain. 2: something comparatively worthless.
The same drama is played out every fall in late October or mid November. What was lush and green and gave shade to my yard in the summer has been browning and shriveling for weeks. The slow trickle of leaves to the ground has accelerated at times to a shower. The driveway is entirely covered, not a square inch of concrete to be seen. I’ve put off taking rake in hand for as long as I possibly can. Time to gather leaves.
For me, this is a full Saturday’s worth of work. We’re talking hours of labor. And for a short while, it is worth it. It is good to see the yard again and be able to tell where the edge of the driveway is. But inevitably, as soon as my day of labor is ending and I’m enjoying the benefits of my work, the wind will blow . . . and blow . . . and blow again.
Sometimes the wind blows when I’ve gathered a pile of leaves. What I’ve carefully gathered in a nice circular heap is diminished and scattered by a single gust. Most often, after all the piles have been picked up and bagged, the wind will blow hard and more leaves will rain from above me and begin to clutter the areas I just worked so hard to clear.
I’ve not had much experience with the harvesting or threshing of grain. But I have had some experience raking leaves, and I’ve seen the wind blow and do to my leaves what it does to chaff. At the heart of the image being used in Psalm 1 is worthlessness. That’s what a wicked life leads to.
A wicked life is a way of living that is set in counter-direction to God’s way. Sometimes wickedness is mean and violent, characterized by hatred of what is good and disregard for what is right. Wicked can be a synonym for evil.
But this is not always so. Quite often a wicked life can appear to be perfectly polite and decent. But there’s no God in it. This means that at the end of the day a wicked life lacks weight. It doesn’t amount to much. It comes to nothing, blown away like chaff. A wicked life is a life of fruitless energy, a life that works hard to clear ground only to see a deluge of leaves falling to cover it again. Wickedness is life worthless and wasted.
A wicked person is not simply someone who does bad things, but someone who does things that lack lasting value, things that don’t matter. Of course this begs the question: where does worth come from? We’ll take a look at that tomorrow.
Gracious God, I want my life to have weight. I want the things I do to matter and make a difference. Help me to live this way today, knowing that even small part of this day can be weighty and worthy with your help and presence. Amen.