Read the Parable here: Matthew 13:24-43
Reflections on the Text – Weeds in The Field – St. Matthew 13:24-30
What do you do about weeds? Anyone who does much gardening will have to confront this problem sooner or later. This is the problem faced by our farmer in the parable for this morning. He had dutifully sown wheat in his field but then his servants discovered that weeds were growing there along with the wheat. And not just any weeds: Tares or Darnel. This added a complication. Darnel actually looks like wheat when it first comes up, so it is hard to tell the difference. Only when the wheat ripens and then the stalks begin to bend over can you see the difference more clearly, for the Darnel has no grains so it remains straight. So it is no wonder that the farmer was concerned that if his servants began to try to eradicate the Darnel they would certainly, accidently pull up some of the good wheat as well. It is a very interesting story. And there are a couple important points which need to be pointed out:
1. 1. When first told about the problem, the farmer responds that “an enemy has done this.” Now, even though Jesus in his explanation of the parable a little later identifies the enemy as the devil, the Greek makes it clear that the enemy/devil is NOT an equal with the farmer/God. The enemy has to sneak in to sow the weeds at night, he can’t do it in the daylight. This is an important point as sometimes we may think of the power of evil as being equal to the power of God, as if the forces of light and the forces of darkness are of equal strength. This is not the case. God has the upper hand. The power of God’s love and grace is stronger than the power of hate and evil.
2. 2. The servants are all very enthusiastic about weeding. These servants have discovered the problem and, it appears that they have even worked out a plan of attack before they even come to the farmer with the news. The servants in the parable, by the way, are the disciples of every age – they are us. (By the way – we are the Wheat too).
3. 3. The farmer clearly instructs the servants NOT to do anything, but to leave it. For he is afraid that in their enthusiasm they would most certainly pull up some of the wheat. Perhaps the servants are thinking of this as unavoidable “collateral damage.” But for God the Farmer the risk of loosing one – even one – of the good plants is a risk he is not willing to take.
4. 4. The NRSV translates the Farmers instructions to the servants like this: Let both of them grow up together until the harvest. The word that is translated as “let” is very interesting. In Greek it is the same word that appears in the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. This word that Jesus uses can be rendered in English as “let,” as “leave,” as “permit” or as “forgive.” What is Jesus saying here? Are we really to forgive the evil which is done to us? (answer: YES – 70x7 = an uncountable, infinite number of times!) ((Also – another note – to forgive, doesn’t mean that we are not to resist evil.))
5. 5. Finally, note that when the time comes – and it will come – the destruction of evil will be done by the reapers – not by the servants. It is all up to God – not up to us!
All of this has some really important and profound things to say about our human tendency and desire for crusades and for “holy” revenge. Open a news website, or even a newspaper and you will find at least one story of someone or some group somewhere taking it upon themselves to eradicate evil and to defend God – sometimes to bloody and horrifying results. And sometimes these folks are, or call themselves Christian. It is not new. We can go back to the earliest days of the church to find all kinds of atrocities committed in the name of God and Jesus, in order to defend God and Jesus and to purify the body of believers. Sometimes these actions take the form of “holy” revenge. In every case they are destructive and create much pain and suffering. And most important – to engage in this is directly contrary to the Gospel.
It is not up to us to defend God or Jesus. God hardly needs defending, and certainly not by us. Remember the farmer’s instructions to the servants: … for in gathering the weeds you might uproot some of the wheat along with them. Rather, this parable calls for us to “let” it go, to “leave” it to God, and to “forgive” the evil and focus on the work God has given us to do – that is sowing the fruit of the Kingdom of God: which is love and grace.