In this great parable chapter of Matthew’s Gospel we need to listen carefully and not confuse especially the two parables having to do with sowing seeds. For, in the first parable of the Sower the seed is the Word of God. The point is that the Word of God is the all-sufficient means of His redeeming and saving sinners. In today’s parable of the wheat and the weeds the seed is not the Word of God but the children of the kingdom, Christians themselves! It is to say that you are the planting of God in His field of the world.
The parable of the wheat and the weeds shows how God is active in establishing his redemptive rule among men in the world even as the archenemy and author of sin and death, the devil, seeks to undermine that rule. Frustration and discouragement threatens Christians as they observe what may seem at times like a losing battle. How does one hang on to the hope of salvation in a world that calls evil good and good evil, denying that there is anything from which we need to be saved? How can we continue to forgive others including our enemies when it’s easier not to mention more satisfying to criticize, judge and condemn? How can we know and live in love amid so much lovelessness? Our faith values and believes in life triumphing over death even as we dwell in a society that has cheapened life and embraced death by the elimination of 47 million unborn children through legal abortion (1973-2006), and that apparently does not include the related killings of assisted suicide or euthanasia. We thank God for his design and gift of marriage and the family even while the devil succeeds in convincing people that sex outside of marriage is not only okay but to be expected and even encouraged, accepting couples living together without marriage as somehow “normal” and many other related issues. This is the picture Jesus was painting when he gave the parable of the wheat and the weeds.
You see, the field in this parable is not just the church but the whole world—the world that “God so loved,” but is, nevertheless, the dominion of its prince, the devil (Eph. 2:1-2). Nevertheless, the Enemy also sows his weeds even in amongst the outward fellowship of the church. Hypocrites go undetected, for only God can see into a person’s heart. Judas Iscariot was called by Christ to be among the twelve apostles. But even we ourselves struggle as we are, on this side of eternity, simultaneously saints and sinners and sometimes do weed like things ourselves out of weakness. Certain church bodies have chosen the wide and easy, politically and socially acceptable and destructive road of moving with the times, trying to be relevant to the world by adopting its culture. Dr. Jean S. Garton of Lutherans for Life has written, “There are some 180 million Christians from all denominations in the U.S. Many of them describe themselves as pro-choice despite repeating the Apostles’ Creed every Sunday, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker….” (Whatever Happened to the Human Race? in For the Life of the World, July 2005). And there are many other issues we can identify as things not of God’s planting even in the church.
As we said, in the previous parable of the Sower, Jesus said the seed is the Word of God and the various kinds of soil the people or the hearts of people and various conditions of receptiveness to the Word. In this parable the good seed are the Christians themselves, the field is the whole world and the weeds the sowing of the enemy, the devil. The servants of the master express surprise and are perplexed as they see the weeds growing among the wheat. What are we to do, they ask. Do you want us to go and gather up the weeds? that is, to take up arms and root out all evil around us? What is to be the position of the church and of individual Christians as we view the immorality and ungodliness around us? We have been very vocal for many years speaking up for life and protesting legalized abortion, for instance. And we must use our individual rights in this country to vote for candidates that support our views. We are not, however, allowed to take matters into our own hands, lobbing grenades at abortion clinics or shooting doctors that perform them, as some have. “No,” Jesus said, “lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.” In other words, judgment and temporal and eternal punishment is God’s prerogative. The judgment is not yet. This is still a period of grace.
What are we to do, then? Well, first and foremost, that we be the good seed, the wheat of God’s sowing continuing to look in faith to the Sower. Christ is our righteousness and the perfect sacrifice for all sin. By faith in Him we are made wheat and heirs of His kingdom, clothed in His righteousness. Being wheat like, then, means to be patient and confident in the coming harvest.
We are not to take matters of judgment into our own hands. Yet, this in no way means we are to ignore false doctrine or leave openly impenitent sinners undisciplined. Notice the little detail that the Enemy sowed his weeds while the sower‘s men were sleeping. So it can be that false doctrine and teaching can sneak its way into the church if we are asleep at the wheel, not watching carefully over what is taught and believed in the church. Yet, with respect to the sins of weakness on the part of fellow believers, love seeks to restore and to forgive.
Now God also is using this time of grace to work in the lives of others. Through His Word and Sacraments He calls all people to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. This parable does not address the fact that, in God’s hands, He can perform the miracle of turning weeds into wheat, sinners into saints, persecutors of the Church like Saul into the great apostle Paul. That’s why we are not to pull up the weeds as long as grace, repentance and faith is still possible.
Faith keeps the great hope in view of the coming harvest when our loving Savior will dispatch his angels to gather in His harvest. Faith trusts that God will do the sorting. Those who have not believed in Jesus, who have really been sons of the devil, will face the torments of hell. Those who have trusted in Christ, however, will “shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of our Father.”
It is fair to ask ourselves, when we hear this parable, “Am I an heir of the kingdom or a child of the devil? How will I fare at the final harvest? Do I trust that God’s holy Christian Church is a reality in this world, even when I can’t see it beyond the marks of the Word being sown, even though it sometimes seems hidden? Am I patient to wait for God’s good time of harvest, so that none of His intended wheat will be pulled up as weeds, so that daily more and more heirs may be added to the kingdom?”
Faith trusts that God will save and bring you to His heavenly kingdom. Faith alone causes us not to lose heart as we are confronted with the evidence of evil all around. Faith is patient trust in our Lord as he patiently reaches out to others. He who has begun this good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of harvest.