This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Matthew 13: 24-30 The Parable of the Weeds
24 He presented them with another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a person who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 When the plants sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared. 27 So the slaves of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’ 28 He said, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the slaves replied, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, since in gathering the weeds you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, but then gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
In Matthew 13: 36-43 we get an explanation of this parable which, like the explanation of the parable of the sower, is clearly not by Jesus, but by someone who thought it was a boring sort of allegory. I wrote last week about my response to this sort of thing. In this case I’m just sticking with the original parable and ignoring the clumsy explanation.
The weeds parable is a fresh and humorous way of dealing with the traditionally difficult question of why a good God permits so much evil in the world. The owner of the farm is in no doubt that the weeds are not of his own planting but the action of an enemy. Certainly at this point Jewish listeners would have thought of HA SATAN literally, the enemy, depicted in scripture (JOB) as a cynical spirit who wants to prove God wrong. This might give us the hint that the sowing of weeds is a attempt to damage the owner’s reputation as a good farmer. “Just look at that field covered in weeds!”
The owner however is not fazed and simply acknowledges that someone is getting at him. The slaves, out of concern for the owner’s professional standing, ask if he wants the weeds rooted up, but the owner will have none of it. He knows that any untimely interference with the crop may do as much damage to the wheat as to the weeds. Both can grow together until harvest. Then there will be a clear separation.
The canny farmer has patience with weeds for the sake of the wheat. How much more will God have patience with our evil traits for the sake of our goodness! That’s what Jesus is saying. Don’t imagine that the parable envisages a simple distinction between “evil people” (weeds) and “good people” (wheat); they grow together in the one person and will only be separated at the time of God’s harvesting.
The parable tells me I’m living in the time of God’s patience with evil (thank God!); somehow an enemy, who may be my arrogant self, has spoiled the goodness God intended. But he’s not about to come now and surgically remove the pride, selfishness, injustice, negligence and lust from my character. For the sake of the goodness in me, however small, he will wait. But not forever. There will come a time beyond my time in this world, when that painful separation will take place and the evil me be consigned to the divine recycling bin and the good me added to his favourite software.
Yes, I suppose there may be people who are all evil, in which case nothing of them will survive the separation. And there will also be people who are almost all goodness who will just need a quick tweak to make them acceptable to God.
But the main message of the story is the wise patience of God in respect of his human creatures. For the sake of the goodness in humanity God is patient with the evil. But not forever.