Two weeks ago, I wrote about (and talked with DiscipleChurch) about Jesus telling a lame man, “your sins are forgiven.” My point was that Jesus was actually countering any idea that would question this good news. That sounds so basic that one might wonder why keep repeating it.
Except, that the news about God has always gotten distorted. News about God from the lips of centuries of God worshippers has too often sounded like that God is angry and ashamed of us. So it’s no wonder that too often people of God are angry and filled with shame. Usually, these two fierce feelings are projected on to others — anger toward people who disagree on any number of points, or who “sin” in ways that they don’t.
But there are still lots of people who know and believe the good news about God, and the parable I’m talking about this week has more of it. It’s the parable of the wheat and the weeds.
Matthew 13: 24-30
Jesus told them 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.”
And here is the good news in the story:
- The good seed is not overcome by the weeds. In fact, the wheat is doing fine. The weeds are there for sure, and for storytelling purposes, Jesus says an enemy planted them. He later allows that the enemy is the devil, which is a way of characterizing the disruption of peace (wholeness) and goodness. But the good seed is not overcome, the wheat is making grain like it’s supposed to.
- The owner of the field said don’t pull up the weeds now because you might not know what you are doing. The time will come for separating the wheat from the weeds later, and guess what? It’s God’s business, not mine.
Perhaps this last point is the one we should focus on in times when everyone is up in arms disagreeing and fighting about so many things. People who claim God’s point of view seem to be very anxious to uproot the others. And the good news is that it is not our job. This is not good news to people who are on a moral crusade.*
If we lived in Matthew’s time (some years after Jesus left the earth), we might be in a church that was made up of Jews with their long-standing faith tradition — the tradition that nurtured Jesus and non-Jews (the Bible calls them Gentiles). Both were followers of Jesus and the ways of God, but not surprisingly there were differences in understanding and expression. No doubt some of the disagreements were significant.
It is to this group that Matthew writes. Perhaps the point of the story is that the good seed will prevail, but here you are, both groups fighting and thinking the other is not the wheat but the weeds.
Jesus told another story about the threat of weeds choking plants, but we should let this parable speak too — the seed is doing fine.
I really love that the landowner tells the workers not to pull up the weeds — because they might not know what they are doing. In a hurry to get those weeds, they might tear up the whole garden. That’s how I approach weeds — in a hurry.
The most intriguing thing to me is that the word let (let them grow together) is the same Greek word sometimes translated “permit,” “forebear,” or “forgive,” as well as “allow” or “let.” Doesn’t that just stop you in your tracks? Could this story be one more way that Jesus tries to nudge us into thinking about how it is we should live among people we differ with? With forbearance? With forgiveness? Jesus can really be a pesky guy sometimes.
*Thanks to John Petty for this brilliant point and for inspiration and instruction for this blog.