Wheat and Tares

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.  But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.  So the servants of the owner came and said to him "...Do you want us to go and gather them up?" But he said "No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers 'First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"  ~Matthew 13:24-30

The tares in this parable were probably the weed darnel.  Darnel looks very much like wheat in the early stages of growth.  The farmer in this parable would not have known that there were tares among the wheat plants until the crop had matured enough that the differences began to show, at which point the roots would be too tangled to pull the weed without damaging the wheat. The presence of the tares was a problem because the flour ground from the seeds of darnel was poisonous. There was a Roman law which made it illegal to sow darnel in another's field.  Since this was apparently known to occur, Jesus' parable would have been very realistic to His listeners.

Jesus explained the parable privately to his disciples in verses 37-43.  We, the people on the earth, are represented by the wheat and the tares.  This includes the entire population of the planet not just "true" or "false" Christians. It is interesting that we should be indistinguishable spiritually until we mature.  I believe that this is another example of how the potential to embrace the gospel is in all of us.  We all face great moments of decision.  The gospel is joyfully presented with the ring of truth about it, the Holy Spirit nudges us to accept and believe, and yet to do so or not is still a decision.  The ability to make that decision and accept its consequences requires a certain amount of spiritual maturity.

Everyone I know who is a Christian loves people who are not Christian. We have an amazing web of family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances.  This net interlocks with our lives so completely that it would be devastating to have everyone who will never believe in Christ suddenly taken away.  Part of loving is praying for the salvation of friends and family who don't know Jesus.  Sometimes we pray for years, sometimes for a lifetime and we cling to our hope that God will change their heart.  We value their presence in our lives and would not even want them removed.

There are, however, some people we wouldn't mind having removed from the population.  Some that we , as a society, remove to prison and there are plenty that should be in prison, but aren't.  Some of these people, sometime in the future, will intentionally devastate or end the life of another or others.  Wouldn't it be better if God's reapers (the angels) just plucked those evil people out now?  In spite of the damage they do, I hope that even these people are loved by someone.  They have parents, a spouse, children, friends.  Not only is everyone important to God but we are also important to each other and, that too, is important to God.

Consider for a moment the people who are very difficult to be around.  These people, Christian or not, impact our lives and our faith tremendously.  They test our patience, our knowledge, and our convictions.  No matter what they do we are commanded to pray for them, to take care of their needs, to love them, and at times to forgive them for things that, to us, seem inexcusable.  These commands show the world what it means to be a Christian, but they are primarily for the good of us as Christians.  Following the example of Christ, our faith is tested, proven, and refined. The tenets of our faith require an audience of tares. To whom would we witness without unbelievers?  What enemies would we forgive if everyone acted righteously?  Of what value is it to only love people who love you back?

What a joy it is to face the end of your life with your faith so strong that it withstood trials, evil, temptations, and the workings of the devil.  Followers and disciples of Christ face a reward at the end of life on earth and the tares we encounter along the way help to mold and refine us to prepare us for what lies ahead. At the same time, only the farmer - God - can truly tell the difference between the wheat and the tares. We have no way of knowing who will ultimately be saved. It is our duty to continue to grow spiritually and to obediently listen to God as we endure the difficulties of life with patience and grace.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us ~Hebrews 12:1

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