Last week, we spent time discussing seeds and soil and how both need to be the best they can be to produce the best harvest. Today we turn our attention to the harvesting of those seeds in yet another agricultural parable by Jesus.
Parables were, and are, wonderful tools for illustrating the idea being put forward by Jesus and others. Jesus was a master at using parables in his teachings with his disciples and others. He used examples from everyday life including this one today about weeds being sown in with the healthy plants, but there is always a purpose to the illustrations, and it is our job to discover what those are.
Jesus presents us with a picture of a field of wheat and tells us that this is an idyllic picture of heaven. While everyone was asleep, some folks came in and sowed some bad seeds to spoil the crop. Now the question becomes what do we do about this?
These were not ordinary weeds that might grow up between our plants that we spent some much time preparing, no these are the really bad ones, and there are many, many of them. Since we determined last week that you all have planted things in the ground before you have some knowledge of weeds in your garden. Weeds are bad and remove much-needed nutrients from the main plants, and if they are not removed, they will eventually take over the entire garden. But, we use caution when we are removing those plants, so the central plant is not uprooted as well. Jesus is urging caution here.
You see, as I mentioned already, these are not your average weeds, these weeds look and act just like the wheat that was planted, and it is challenging to distinguish between them, and the farmer is fearful that his crop will be destroyed if an attempt is made to remove the weeds. He tells them to let it grow together and at harvest time the work will be accomplished.
But this story is not just about our garden, Jesus tells us it is a comparison of the Kingdom of God or, in other words, the church and our own lives.
There is a clear distinction being made here between good and evil and what we are to do about it. Sometimes our own lives resemble the farmer’s infested field, with weeds and wheat intertwined in our souls, our hearts, and our minds. Our personal experience may be more subtle as countless distractions derail us. Sometimes our jobs can seem weed infested and under assault. Like the servants in the story today, many people face the challenge of separating the weeds from the wheat in our workplaces.
Jesus faced this same dilemma in his own life. Just before this parable, the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his faith, try to trick him and they begin their plot to destroy him. They look like real leaders, but they are false and deadly as any weed can be.
Jesus and the author of the Gospel today know full well that weeds can infest the community itself. There are many warnings of false messiahs and false prophets and those who lead people astray; these have been described as antagonists in the church.
Church antagonists are the ones who believe in their heart of hearts that they are doing the right thing. They always complain about how things are being done but never offer any solutions or when asked to serve in leadership decline the offer to assist in making the situation better. They are the ones who threaten to withdraw their financial support until the community does what they want, the way they want it done, and when the leadership bends to their demands simply continue to demand more. They are the church bullies that want to decide who is in and who is out of the communion of God and with God as if their lives are so special that God has ordained them for the task. They believe that the church is theirs and that they know better than God how things should be run. We are all aware of these antagonists because at one time or another it has been us.
But the parable also cautions us not to act too quickly or rush to judgment. We may not always be able to spot the right plant from the wrong plant. Just as the farmer cautions his servants not to remove the weeds until harvest time to not uproot the good plants along with them. The farmer tells them to be patient and wait for the harvest, and we must do the same in the church.
There is a story of a gardener who was moving plants from one part of the yard to another. This gardener was in a hurry to get the job done and realized, the next day, which they had, in fact, moved weeds rather than the good plants and had to start all over again.
This parable points out to us the difficulty we have in distinguishing the good from the bad, wheat from weeds, loyal opposition from heresy, healthy conflict from destructive antagonism. The patience that we are being cautioned is not an excuse for inaction or conflict avoidance. Later, in this same Gospel, Jesus outlines how to deal with poisons behavior within the community (18:15-17). If the behavior continues and does not change, they are to be separated from the community as the Reapers separate weeds from wheat at the harvest.
This may sound harsh and perhaps even unchristian, but Jesus knows what happens when this type of behavior, the weeds in the garden, are not dealt with they will spread and infest other fields. But the parable ends with the knowledge that there is one who is stronger and smarter than the ones who sow the weeds. We are cautioned to rely on God in our work; the church belongs to God we are just the caretakers of it.
How do we determine the good from the bad, we ask God to direct us and show us and also for guidance how to deal with it. We should be in constant prayer for the Church and for those whom God has put in leadership both spiritual and temporal of the Church. Each decision that is made should be made after asking the question if this what God wants us to do? If we rush to judgment or react too quickly, we might just pull up the good with bad.
God is still speaking to and through His church; we just need to listen.