What do you do? You stand at field’s edge, looking out across amber waves swaying gently in the wind, knowing that the yellow-greenish kernels are almost plump and ripe enough for harvest. You feel this sense of satisfaction well up inside.
Yet, something grabs your attention. Something impossible to ignore. Something not so satisfying. Sewn into the landscape is a patchwork of absolutely inedible, non-nutritious tares. Worthless weeds! Their slender, grassy stalks blend right into the wheat. All season long both wheat and weed grow side-by-side, straining upwards green-inch by green-inch, promising a rich harvest— that is, until the head [of the crop] formed. Now both ‘pleasing’ and ‘unpleasing’ remain planted together soaking in the final useful days before harvest. So, what do you do?
You planted good seed; you want good results. Blotches of green weeds is not only an unpleasant sight, but weeds steal valuable space and soak up precious resources. They choke the wheat and stunt the growth. That’s why today’s farmers spray and gardeners weed. You want the trouble removed.
So, what the servant ask really sounds quite logical: ‘Do you want us to go and pull them [the weeds] up?’ Without trouble life could flourish! Life could thrive! And wouldn’t you welcome that?
In a world where ungodly influences creep up and press your faith and strangle your joy, our Good Master gives this encouragement: Live as Wheat among Weeds as you remain in the world together and as you await the final harvest.
Jesus’ parable paints a pretty straightforward picture. You envision a field. Good wheat seed planted. An enemy scatters useless weeds. Both wheat and weed grow so intertwined that it is near impossible plucking out weeds without pulling up wheat. So, wait until the sickle strikes and then separate the two (Matthew 13:24-30).
Yet, parables— these earthly tales— always have a spiritual point. This time Jesus is not describing how the Word sprouts faith just like seed sprouts crops (read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). No, in this parable the characters are different. The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. ‘Sons (that includes women too) of the kingdom’ are believers. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). Baptism puts the ‘good’ life of Jesus on you. And now God Almighty peers down from his holy throne and he sees ‘good’— not because you try hard to live a moral life, but because he finds Jesus covering you. That means, you (and I) and every believer across this planet are the wheat.
The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The devil wants nothing good to grow in God’s world. He scatters sneaky temptations in the hopes of luring people to follow ego instead of Scripture— and he succeeds! Look around and you can clearly recognize some weeds. The neighbor who proudly claims no need for God. Groups that specifically target (or persecute) Christianity. Those who deliberately lay aside God’s ‘right’ for humanity’s ‘wrong.’ At other times, weedy hearts blend into the world and you do not know who is or is not Christian. So, what do you do?
That’s really the question this parable is asking, isn’t it? How do you, the Christian, operate in world that is not entirely Christian? The Crusaders of 1096AD waged war against the un-Christian. The Spanish Inquisition of 1478AD exposed and executed the godless. The Temperance Movement of 1920AD tried forcing the drunk to live more Christian-like by passing laws (like Prohibition). Yet, what does your Master command? (After all, that’s really who we obey, right?) He says, Let both grow together.
The point of the parable is not to exterminate the ungodly or complain that this world is so un-Christian. Actually, the parable is so much about others, it’s about you. The Master gives you a command. ‘Let both grow together.’ As for you, Live as Wheat among Weeds.
So, do you? A gentleman interested in joining a local congregation pulled the Pastor aside after service one Sunday. He motioned towards another family standing near the coat rack. ‘Pastor, I know Ted and Diane over there from the little league games I coach. By the way they act at games, I had no idea that they even went to church.’
Do your words and actions clearly identify you as wheat? Does your mouth praise God here only to spew out lewd jokes and curses at the store? Did a quick temper rain down wrath on your own family? And while maybe a weakness, are you still nursing that grudge? … withholding forgiveness from those who wronged you? … refusing to admit fault, that you caused the pain? Do you point out sin— not in the hope to correct it, but stroke your own ego? What do your Facebook (or restaurant-table) comments reveal about your respect for God’s governing authorities? Can I tell that you pray for your leaders? Or, would I find only criticism? Do you think [inside] that some do not deserve the good news of Jesus because of their welfare status? …their skin color? …their political views? …the cause they protest? Do you Live as Wheat among Weeds?
Maybe it is good that the Master is patient. Maybe it is good that he does not immediately pluck out weeds because what he finds in our own hearts is not always pleasing, is it? Instead of living as God-pleasing wheat, we can allow un-Christian weeds to take root.
Instead, your God is patient and wants no one to perish (1 Timothy 2:4). He makes that crystal clear as he takes the perfectly ‘good’ life of his own Son and throws it into the fiery torments reserved for sin. The Master takes all weedy spots in us— our impatience with ungodliness, our less-than-wheat-like behavior— and removes them all.
Your God has cures every soul-destroying disease and fungus so that you (and I) may thrive as wheat in God’s field of the world! After all, isn’t that who you are in this parable? God has made you wheat at your baptism. He nourishes you with his Word of forgiveness and strength so that you may live as God-pleasing. So, his encouragement is natural: Live as Wheat among Weeds as you remain in the world together. Let your life have an influence on the ungodly in because a day is coming— a day when weed and wheat will be separated. Live as Wheat among Weeds as you await the final harvest.
Jesus stresses that, doesn’t he? ‘The harvest is coming!’ Jesus uses 54 words in the original Greek (61 in our English reading) to describe the end of weeds. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. By comparison, only 13 words (in the original Greek; 14 in the English reading) explain the wheat harvest. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
Yes, you see evil— and Jesus does too. It might seem like the wicked thrive right alongside the wheat, but that time will reach an end. The know-it-alls who make up fantasies about God, the arrogant who proudly exchange Scripture for ego, the careless who allow the trappings of the world to choke out faith will be thrown into hell. Weeping and agony will continue for all eternity; it never ends.
There’s no secret about it; Jesus reveals what he will do! For the weedy, this serves as a warning. For the wheat, this provides assurance. You, the believing wheat he has made you to be, are gathered into heaven’s storeroom forever!
Yet, let’s not fixate only on the ending. Look at what you are now. You are wheat [now] living among weeds [now]. That realization drives us to repentance.
That seems like a strange to start. Repent? Admit fault? Yes, compare your life to God’s Ten Commandments. Where you stray, you admit that you strayed, but you also hear God’s pardon. Repentance involves two parts: (1) Confess wrong and (2) Hear God turn you right.
Hear God lay out marriage as one man and one woman bound together in his presence (Genesis 2:24). As God’s ‘right’ sinks into your heart, let your marriage radiate joy in a world that considers marriage painful. If you’re not married yet, but are considering commitment, then work towards marriage as God desires. Or, let us encourage couples towards marriage.
Hear God say, ‘I forgive you’ (John 20:19-23). Let that forgiveness fuel you to forgive, just as in Christ, God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). Even if that means approaching your child and saying, ‘I am sorry that I lost my temper.’ Even if that means approaching someone younger than you and saying, ‘I am sorry that I treated you harshly.’ Even if that means biting your tongue and saying, ‘Spouse, I am sorry for arguing.’ Let God’s free pardon motivate your free pardon.
Hear God say, ‘The authorities that exist have been established by me’ (Romans 13:1). If you feel that politics is filled with disrespect, then be the one who shows respect. Make clear to your circle of friends that you pray for your leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Carefully choose what you ‘share’ on Facebook, steer away from posting slander. Give thanks to God for the country in which you live. Do you think that will stand out? You are not wheat meant to blend in with weedy lifestyles. You are the wheat meant to live as wheat!
That proves a blessing to those who need encouragement. Like the Christian spouse who struggles to make worship a priority. Like the daughter who claims to believe in God, but feels no reason to obey God when he says, ‘Come, worship me’ (Psalm 122:1; Hebrews 10:25). Like the neighbor who considers Christians no better than non-Christians. Live as Wheat among Weeds so that the world finds Jesus through you. That gives us plenty of work as we await the final harvest.
What do you do? You stand at field’s edge, staring out across a landscape where both ‘pleasing’ and ‘unpleasing’ are planted together soaking in the final useful days before harvest. Those wicked blotches only steal valuable space and soak up precious resources. Ungodliness chokes out godly living and presses faith. Life may feel better if we just remove all un-Christian influences.
Yet our Good Master gives encouragement to reveal your identity and to make clear your purpose now: Live as Wheat among Weeds as you remain in the world together and as you await the final harvest.