The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat
24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears[a] listen!
I have spent a lot of time procrastinating this week in the hope that, if I just managed to find enough other things to do, I wouldn’t have to write a blog post on this parable. I prefer passages where Jesus is more fluffy. I feel more comfortable with a Jesus who is not as sharp and stark as he is here. I face the same temptation that many of my generation struggle with — the desire to file down Jesus’ rough edges. Parables that end in things being thrown into the fire don’t belong to the politically correct, everyone-gets-a-medal, participation-is-what-matters world we live in.
Yet here Jesus is just saying whatever he wants. His words seem offensive in our über-inclusive culture because they draw a line between groups of people. This line, however, is not based on race, location, belief, gender, sexual orientation or any of the other pens that get used for 'line-drawing' these days. This line is based on how we live and the choices that we make. The line is between the good seed that bears fruit and the parasitic weeds that drain life.
Several commentators writing about this passage suggest that Jesus was referring to a specific type of weed called ‘darnel’, a parasitic plant that resembles wheat and is common in Palestine. This weed is actually so similar to wheat that it is referred to as ‘false wheat’ in some regions. The Kingdom, then, is like a field in which the master has planted wheat that brings life and the enemy has planted a weed that masquerades as life.
When Jesus has left the crowds behind and entered the house with the disciples, they ask him to explain the parable. His response is clear and succinct … but incomplete. He identifies the sower as the Son of Man, the field as their world, the weeds as children of the evil one, the harvest as the end of the age and the reapers as his angels. He chooses, however, not to identify the servants who are standing at his side and offering to identify and gather the weeds. Who are they exactly?
They are … me. That’s me standing next to Jesus saying, ‘Are you sure that you planted good things in this world? Are you sure you planted the right seed?’
‘Are you sure working through that person was a good idea?’ ‘Really? You’re calling them?’
It’s me standing next to Jesus saying, ‘Would you like me to me to go out into the fields and gather up the weeds? I would make an excellent judge of all that is right and wrong with the world. Just look at all the comments I post on YouTube.'
And it’s Jesus who replies, ‘Eh … thanks … but no.’ Because wheat and weeds can look the same until one bears fruit and the other doesn’t. What looks fruitful may not be … and what looks like a weed may actually be a source of life. Only time will tell.
Just look at how the religious leaders saw Jesus. They considered him a weed because he didn’t bear their kind of fruit … and they sent the Romans after him as reapers. Paul looks like a weed up until Acts 7 … and yet he bears more fruit than anyone but Jesus could have imagined.
Thankfully, God has not seen fit to place me in charge of discerning between the wheat and the weeds … I can barely do that in my own life, let alone anyone else’s. What he has called me to be, however, is fruitful.
Fruitfulness is a priority to Jesus (Matthew 3:8-10, 7:17-19, 13:-19, Mark 11:12-25, Luke 13:9, John 12:24, 15:1-17) which can be confusing to many of us who grew up within protestantism/evangelicalism. We have so often heard that ‘salvation is by faith alone’ that speaking about fruit can make us press the big, red SALVATION BY WORKS button in our heads. But fruitfulness is not ‘salvation by works’.
It’s the by-product of living out what we believe.
It is a response to being loved first.
It is a life of converting what we have been given into a gift that God gives the world.
It is experiencing the cross and then taking it upon ourselves.
Fruitfulness and belief are two sides of the same coin. Fruitfulness is true belief. There is no difference between what we believe and how we live. How we live exposes the difference between what we believe and what we claim to believe.
It exposes whether we are wheat or weeds.