He told another story. “God’s kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his hired men were asleep, his enemy sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. When the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up, too.
“The farmhands came to the farmer and said, ‘Master, that was clean seed you planted, wasn’t it? Where did these thistles come from?’
“He answered, ‘Some enemy did this.’
“The farmhands asked, ‘Should we weed out the thistles?’
“He said, ‘No, if you weed the thistles, you’ll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I’ll instruct the harvesters to pull up the thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn.’”
Matthew 13: 24-30 The Message
The world is full of wheat and weeds. Good and evil are intermixed, often side by side. This tale is a cautionary one for those of us who want good to win out immediately.
The farmer represents God, who sows goodness and good seed in the world. Yet, when the morning comes, all is not good. There are weeds in the field!
The farmhands are confused. They double check with the farmer about the seed he sowed in the field. “It was good, clean seed, right?”
The farmhands represent us. Like questioning farmhands, some people look at the evil in the world, and deduce (incorrectly), that God is the author of evil. After all, if it’s God’s field, and it contains weeds (evil), God must be the author of evil, right?
Wrong! Hear the farmer’s explanation: “An enemy did this!” There is evil in the world, but God is not behind it.
When we lived in Idaho, we were surrounded by a vast agricultural community. One day, I was with my friend Stuart, and he was looking over his crop towards the end of the summer. I noted that every now and then there were some weeds that had sprung up among his crop in the fields. No farmer wants to see this. Yet just as the farmer does in this story, he pointed out that if he were to eradicate the weeds during the growing season, some of the crop would be ruined. The weeds would be taken care of at the harvest.
The same is true with this parable. Jesus is pointing out that there are going to be weeds in life, but it is not our job to yank them out at the cost of trampling through the field, and destroying some of the harvest.
Instead, we are to treat all the land with care, as we continue to water and care for the crops. In the end, it will be the famer, the harvester, God, who will separate out the weeds from the wheat at harvest. The wheat will be stored, and the weeds will be burned.
The farmer ends up counseling his farmhands to have patience. The growing season may seem long to the farmhands, but time is required for the crop to grow. All will eventually be made right. God wants us to be like the farmhands, and care for what He has put us in charge of. When we do so, the field will yield a great crop. God will tend to the weeds: that is not our job.
Charles Spurgeon, a great English preacher, once said,
“The world is upside down. See how the servile sons of Satan lord it on the earth! What a high horse they ride! How they lift up their horn on high! Haman is in the court, while Mordecai sits in the gate; David wanders on the mountains, while Saul reigns in state; Elijah is complaining in a cave, while Jezebel boasts in the palace; yet who would wish to take the place of the proud rebels? And who, on the other hand, might not envy the despised saints? When the wheel turns, those who are lowest rise, and the highest sink. Patience, then, believer, eternity will right the wrongs of time.”
May we realize anew that God is in charge of the world, as He sows the good seed. Eventually, there will be a harvest. Let us be patient until that time…
Lord of the harvest,
When we are frustrated by the weeds in our world, remind us of this parable. Help us to balance our desire to eradicate evil with our need to protect the wheat from harm. Always remind us that You are the Lord of the harvest. Help us to trust You, even when we feel impatient and want to fix the world immediately. We pray this prayer in Jesus’ name.