I am well acquainted with the problem of weeds. You can’t come from the farm without having struggled against their intrusion into your well laid plans for planting and yields. I remember how my father, and all the farmers would long for an absolutely clean bean field. The would drive down the road, looking down the rows, checking and looking, watching each other’s fields, and sometimes helpfully pointing out the weeds. “Hey Ervin, I see you’ve got some sunflowers out there…”
That was all it would take to make my father head out, grab his trusty “bean hook” and start out down the row to extricate the offenders. Our solution to the weed problem, get rid of it all right now.
Jesus tells the parable of this parable of the Wheat and the Tares as a way of describing how God is working in God’s creation to bring about the Kingdom. It is a bit of a frustrating picture, particularly if you, like my father, like to see a nice, clean field.
The “weeds” that Jesus describes is most likely Darnel, a plant that looks just like wheat when it is young and as it grows, and that only shows its ugly head – literally– when the wheat is already tall and beginning to head out. Then you can see it for what it truly is.
But now there is a problem as well. The Darnel has a gangly root system that intertwines with the surrounding wheat plants. If you try to take it out now when you can recognize it, you will take out the good with the bad.
Jesus therefore tries to answer a number of questions with this parable. The first question that we don’t often even think about, is the question of where evil comes from.
“Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?” The servants ask.
That is a loaded question, one that we find ourselves asking from time to time under our breath. If God is good, and God creates everything, where does this evil come from? Where do these “weeds” come from that pop up and that we can seemingly do nothing about?
Well evil, like weeds, is often just a good part of creation misplaced. “An enemy has done this.” The Master proclaims. Someone has put something where it shouldn’t be!
Take a look at your yard sometime and you will find there what I find in mine, Dandelions. A perfectly good plant, but not native to the U.S. at all, brought here by our British ancestors because they liked to eat the greens.
Now of course, there is almost no temperate climate place in the U.S. where you can’t find Dandelion willing to take over. Is it a bad, an evil plant? No, it is just misplaced, taken away from the things that kept it in check.
Begin therefore to see God’s frustration, God’s dilemma. The whole of creation was made good. Darnel has its place. But Darnel’s place is not in the middle of a wheat field!
So also, there are things that we have and that we do that sometimes get misplaced.
It is good to have care and concern for your neighbor, but too much talk about what they do, or don’t do, too many shouts of “I see you’ve got some sunflowers out there.” Becomes gossip and nagging, and gossip breeds resentment and distrust and destroys the very community that it intends to care for. Is it bad, evil to care about your neighbor? No, but such care can be misplaced.
In the same way it can be evil not to care, to let your neighbor, your community deteriorate because you don’t want to be seen as a nuisance, a busybody. Something happens in the house next to you, noise and shouts and sounds of violence. Do you call the police? Do you risk your family, your neighborhood, the label it might bring to you? Which is worse, to be known as someone who does not care, or to be known as someone who is a nosy neighbor.
You see the problem. How is God to deal with evil?
Should God come strutting in with machete in hand, hacking out the evil whatever it is, and if some good goes down with it, well, that’s the price you pay for not having the seeds spread?
We might say at first think that is what we want. We would like a God who takes care of evil wherever it rears its ugly head, right away. But think about that again. What if that evil is surrounding you? What if you find yourself intertwined, for no apparent reason or fault of your own, in schemes and evil plots? Do you want God to come in hacking? Would this God be any comfort, any hope at all if evil surrounded you?
It is also no comfort to have a God who just lets evil have its way. A do nothing God who lets whatever happens, happen. Who wants an impotent God?
See the dilemma in which God is caught . Evil must be dealt with, yes, but how to do it without destroying the good as well?
The answer, Jesus says, lies in this matter of the Kingdom. God will wait until the time of harvest to distinguish, to judge, and then to separate.
God could come in hacking, but God chooses rather deal patiently with us, and with creation.
God cares enough for you that God does not want to accidentally destroy you in any quest to rid the world of evil. God has faith that you are strong enough to see things through until the time of harvest. You will live with evil in your midst. It will intertwine around your very roots from time to time. But you are stronger than whatever threatens you because of the Gospel, and a harvest is coming. Until that time, God continues to send the gentle rains, on the just and the unjust. God continues to give the life giving warmth of his Son, to sustain those who find themselves surrounded and intertwined by evil.
What at first does not sound very comforting, is in reality the ultimate in care. God cares enough for you that God will not allow you to be forgotten, lost in the shuffle, forsaken or accidentally cut down in any vendetta to rid the world of evil. You will be saved from the evil that you are caught up in, when the time is right and safest for you. That is God’s promise in this parable.
“Action without study is fatal. Study without action is futile.”
–Mary Beard, Historian