The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
Most of us at one time or another have asked, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" But I'm not so sure that's a valid question. It's like asking, "What's nine divided by zero?" Rather, I feel we should be asking, "Why do bad things happen in God's good world?"
Jesus makes it clear that we are sinners. He calls us evil in the Parable of Persistent Widow. Jesus even calls his right-hand man, Peter, "Satan." We think of ourselves as individuals, but are we really? We are connected by spiritual, familial, ancestral, and even organic bonds. In many ways, we are all "Adam," as Paul alludes in Romans 5:12. The sin of Adam in us will always be evil. We will always tend toward sin, because it is our selfish nature. There is no way out for the old Adam; that child in us is bound for Hell. When Jesus died, the old sin in Adam was sentenced to death, and the new Adam rose through Christ in the resurrection. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares explains why we are still in the middle of this judicial sentencing. The old man is being led to hell. The new man is being freed from the bonds of sin. But the action is not over. We must wait for the harvest to finish ripening.
As an aside, I remember having a conversation about how to fix the systematic problems that are inherent in our school systems. The teacher with whom I was speaking cited an industrial executive who believed that complex systems cannot change. They had to be born anew. So, if an organization had deep structural problems, the only way to fix it was to start a new organization on a new foundation and migrate the data and customers to that new system. He believed that systems with deep structural issues cannot be fixed. The same can be said for mankind. The human 'organization' has a deep structural flaw. This is what Christians call sin. This is why the old Adam had to be put to death through Christ and the new Adam had to be reborn through Christ.
But our reality still begs the question: Why isn't it really finished after Christ on the cross and after the resurrection? Why is sin still in our lives? Why is the evil one still allowed to be present on earth? This parable answers these questions.
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
“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 blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, also known as the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, Jesus once again compares the kingdom of heaven to a field of wheat. But in this case, "His enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat." It is important to cross-reference this parable with the Parable of the Sower for some deciphering assistance. Although Jesus' explanation in 36-46 explicitly states that the "good seed stands for the [children] of the kingdom," the wheat must not be likened to individuals as is commonly perceived. We each have been invited to the Wedding Banquet. In each of us is planted a child of God. In each of us has also been planted the nature of the evil one, by the evil one, which is our sin. The fruit of wheat is the Word of God and may be best thought of as the characteristics of God: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the fruit of the Spirit as outlined by Paul in Galatians 5. As we go about our lives, we decide which characteristics to tend. Do we tend and give purpose to the fruit of the Spirit? Are these the seeds that we emphasize in our lives and draw forth?
Or do we tend and water the weeds, the evil counterparts, what Paul describes as the acts of the flesh. When harvest time comes, you will want to have cared for the good fruit. You want to make sure the weeds are stunted and dead.
If we think of some individuals as the wheat and some individuals as the weeds, then we get into a whole heap of trouble. We start fingerpointing and we even start justifying murder. How often have Christians pulled the trigger, saying with confidence, "He must be a Weed of the evil one." In this way, we may even end up nurture the evil weeds within ourselves."
In this parable the angels are the "servants." Our open-ended question, "Why is the harvest delayed?" is answered when the servants ask God if he wanted them to pull up the weeds, he replies, "No," because the good fruit would be yanked up also. God knows that the fruit will ripen and when the those wonderful traits become fully realized here on earth, in his church and in his people, then the great harvest will happen. But that day has not come yet.
We must tend the child of God in us. We must also tend the child of God in others. We must do all that we can to bring forward the child of God in our friends, acquaintances, and the people we meet on the street. With everyone we interact with, we must talk directly to that child of God. Ignore the tares. When they are mean to you, talk to the child of God. Pay no attention to the weeds. Let the weed die. The weeds want your attention. The weeds want you to yell at them. The weeds love the anger you spew forth. Because then the weeds are doing their job quite well. They are bringing forth the weed in you.
Let us not get confused. The wheat and the weeds are not individuals in a normal sense. Inside each of us was planted both. We are sinners. We are also called his children. We can set our mind's eye, the Lamp of our Body, on those good seeds by turning always to Christ. Every day we must do an adjustment in our heart by saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner."
And each and every day, find a way to nurture the wheat in others.