The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 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?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 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
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.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
I wonder how many of you are fans of Charlie Brown and the comic strip cartoon Peanuts? Sadly, its creator Charles Schulz died in February 2000. Lucy is one of the main characters – a little girl that likes to play the psychiatrist from a lemonade stand. Charlie Brown and his friends go there to be heard, but only get useless and clichéd responses in return for the 5¢ they pay. There is a little bit of Lucy in all of us: when someone speaks to us, sometimes we aren’t really listening; we are already thinking of the answer we will so generously give, because we want quick solutions to problems. It is in our nature to rush in our judgments and conclusions. We all have a need to be listened to, but we also need the time to listen to ourselves and to give our ears to hear God. Well, maybe you have found that our period of lock down has given you more time and space to think, to listen, to articulate your feelings, to hear and reflect, and to decide.
The Gospel of Matthew was written at the time of the early church community, a community full of contrasts and conflicts, where some thought of themselves as better than others and had difficulty having fellowship with those who were judged to be false and impious. In our reading today, Jesus’ parable seems to say that this is not God’s way of being. God acts with patience and meekness and often invisibly. He does not love hasty judgments; He loves to take His time and He invites us to be patient.
The parable of the weeds among the wheat would have made a lot more sense to Jesus’ original audience. When one farmer wanted to sabotage another, it wasn’t unheard of for them to sow bearded darnel into their wheat. This weed name is translated from the Hebrew word zunim or the Greek word zizanion and is also known as tares, or even bastard wheat. Bearded darnel is a noxious weed that initially mimics the characteristics of wheat. Before they mature, the two plants are almost identical, but as they ripen, the differences become apparent. When the darnel is fully grown it has long upright ears and its grain is black and poisonous. The true wheat has shorter ears and a bowed head.
Jesus has sown the wheat seed of the children of the Kingdom of God into the good soil. The enemy has planted the weeds, representing evil, amongst those who belong to God. It is never easy to understand how and why God does not intervene to remove the weeds that make the life of the wheat so difficult. Yet God, in His wisdom lets them grow together. As we look at what disturbs us in our world, the greed, corruption, injustice, disease, the damage to the environment, all that disturbs us in our personal lives, we need to ask God for the wisdom and courage to deal with them as He does. How do I deal with imperfection in myself and with others? Can I live with limitations in myself and others?
Jesus makes it clear that any attempt to root out the weeds will only do more damage to the crop. And yet, Christians from every age have been tempted to be over zealous weeders, keen to purify the community by rooting out the bad seed. However, we are not the ones to make the judgment call; we are being proud and arrogant if we think we know for certain the difference between the wheat and the weeds. All too often, damage has been done to the church when individuals, congregations or denominations have judged others either within or outside of the church. This can seriously damage the church and its mission. On a personal level, we may think that perfection is acquired by becoming more aware of our faults and working to root these out. But Jesus accepted us in our sinful state and he knows our limitations. We don’t need to be fixated about our failings, rather we should appreciate the fullness of life that Jesus has already given us. Stay close with Jesus and let Him teach you how to grow, even whilst surrounded by the weeds. He sees that you are a beautiful wheat plant and he will not jeopardise your growth. He delights when He sees us bearing fruit for the Kingdom. The advance of the Kingdom of God will take place through a process of slow growth. Be kind to yourself and trust in the Lord of Creation, the most experienced of cultivators, that He has the matter well in hand.
We do get frustrated and impatient by the presence of evil in our midst. It poses one of our biggest questions in life. The idea that good and bad might coexist gives trouble to the tidy mind, and so Jesus calls us to humility, patience and tolerance as we allow God to work in our lives. In our parable Jesus tells us that the struggle between good and evil is to the death, but we can rest assured that God will have the last word. At the end of the age, it’s the job of the harvester to judge who is or who isn’t a member of God’s Kingdom.
In conclusion, let us use these strange times we live in to take the slow food approach to our growth as wheat plants. Let us take time to listen, to hear and to reflect, individually and as a community of believers. Don’t be anxious about the poisonous potential of the weeds around you and leave it to God to judge others. God is patiently waiting for His Kingdom to grow and come to maturity. When all people have to stand before our Lord to give account of their lives, some will stand big and proud, with their heads up and say ‘I did great’, but the genuine believers will bow their heads in grateful thanks to Jesus for the sacrifice he made for their sins, knowing that they were on earth to feed the world in humble service to Him. Amen