24[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field;25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And 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?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let 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.’ ”
36Then 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.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!” (NRSV)
|The Waning Days of Summer by Robert Cross. Creative Commons on flickr|
A lady went to her pastor and said, “I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be back at church anymore.” When the pastor asked her why, she said, “I’m sick of the gossipers, the hypocrites, the cliques, people looking at their phones in church, and so many other things wrong.”
The pastor replied “Ok, but before you go, do me a favor: take a full glass of water and walk around the church three times without spilling a drop on the ground.”
She did it. Piece of cake. When she finished she told the Pastor she was ready to leave.
Then the pastor asked, “when you were walking around the church, did you notice anyone gossiping? Any hypocrites? Any cliques? People looking at their phone?” She shook her head and said, “no.” “You know why?” the pastor said, “because you were focused on the glass instead of all the things people do wrong.”
I really appreciate this story in light of Jesus’ parable of weeds in the wheat field…
You don’t have to be a farmer or a green-thumb to know that weeds are bad. They rob the soil of vital nutrients and the task of separating them from the wheat makes harvesting extremely laborious. So why does the landowner choose to leave them be?
Jesus explains, “for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.” This is how God responds to all the evil in the world; “all causes of sin and evildoers.” God leaves them be. That’s outrageous.
Every day, you see evil—and gossip, hypocrisy, immorality, and general obnoxiousness are only just the start…” There’s theft, violence, murder, and war. People who physically, emotionally, or sexually abuse their spouses or children… White collar criminals who steal your life savings and get away with it… Industries that pollute your air and water and make you sick… You don’t feel safe and secure. So what do you do?
The natural human response is to fight back—and very often, that is the right thing to do. Being a responsible citizen and a faithful Christian means standing with the poor and oppressed against those who do wrong.
Yet most of the time, we prefer to do Jesus’ weeding for him.
We are naturally inclined to recolor the world into stock modes of good and evil. And you’ll never have trouble bringing people together to rage against a common enemy.
Congregations and denominations get torn apart when small groups of people band together in hopes of “purifying the church.” The same thing happens in workplaces, schools, institutions, and neighborhoods as factions battle it out for power and control. Social media makes it possible to publicly shame and anonymously harass people or groups whom you find repugnant for what they do or stand for. Our heroes are those who fight against evil and win.
In the end, we succeed only in sowing seeds of suspicion and mistrust; in other words, sowing more weeds in God’s field.
Jesus’ parable speaks powerfully for humanity’s desire for justice in a world of evil, while at the same time speaking powerfully against people who would commit evil in their efforts to silence or eliminate those whom they define as evil. The fight against death and the devil belongs to the Lord, not us. It is Christ and Christ alone who will judge, not us. And, quite often, the sin you condemn in your neighbor may well be the sin you refuse to see in yourself. In destroying your enemies, you have become just like them.
This parable is Gospel because it speaks of God’s profound yet perplexing mercy in a harvester who refrains from weeding, lest the wheat be destroyed in the process. Jesus’ desire is for justice through repentance, not death and destruction.
In God’s kingdom, no one exists for themselves. We are bound together, for better or worse. If God were to strike down everyone who crossed the line, or (worse yet), send Christians on a quest to slay the evildoers, we would destroy each other. The church would become a cauldron of self-righteous snobbery, instead of being a support group for sinners. There would be no healing, no peace, no hope.
So rather than condemning and attacking each other, let us belong to each other as the Body of Christ.
In the light of God’s mercy, let us be real about our sinfulness rather than hiding behind a self-righteous façade. Let us be vulnerable and accountable to each other in our shared struggle against sin; never judging or condemning but loving and supporting.
At the same time, let us recognize that there are people in this world who held captive by evildoers. They are the abused and neglected. They are the poor who can’t help themselves. They are people around the world who are imprisoned and killed for their faith. God’s fight against evil means standing for and with these sisters and brothers; praying for them; giving them refuge and safety; and helping them to get back on their feet again.
There is no escaping evil and death in this lifetime. But thankfully, there is no escaping God’s mercy, either. In spite of the weeds, there will still be a harvest. The crop is not lost. The enemy and its weeds will not win. This is the Kingdom of God we’re talking about.
God’s awesome saving power over evil isn’t about shaming or blaming; silencing or eliminating. God’s power is made real in sinners made righteous by God’s grace; standing together by God’s Spirit; bearing the fruits of peace, hope, and love.