Elite wheat or woeful weeds?
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And 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?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let 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. (Matthew 13.24-31)
This parable follows on after the parable of the sower. It is unique to Matthew’s gospel. Read it again, what do you make of it? It was meant to be heard. Notice the repetitions, what questions do you ask yourself, most obviously who is this enemy? Notice what assumptions you make, for example, that the enemy can be identified. Slaves? Slaves? Umm, umm….. Who might they represent? Who are the reapers? Who is the master? What about the harvest?
If there are all these questions arising from this simple tale, I trust you will accept that I cannot answer them in these few lines. Often it is better to see the questions than to know the answers, or to put it differently, there are various answers depending on the way we choose to respond to this parable. One way is to consider the contrast between ‘elite wheat’ and ‘woeful weeds’. Christians can sometimes be told that they are the chosen ones, the ‘elite wheat’. The rest are ‘the lost’, the ‘woeful weeds’ who need to ‘be saved.’ This sounds great when we are first ‘saved’:- ‘ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like me…….. Nice and simple.
Yet the new believer then has to come to terms with that which hangs on from the ‘old life’, ‘woeful weeds’ as we might describe them. ‘All or nothing thinking’ does not help us and may be the reason some give up on the Christian life, whilst others do not give up but feel they cannot be honest about what seems to be a ‘double life’. One suggestion is that indeed it is a ‘double life’ a hybrid combination of ‘elite wheat’ and ‘woeful weeds’. This is where Christians could find it helpful to recognize that often we are ‘our own worst enemy’ as the saying goes. We cannot blame everything on the devil.
Sometimes also we are also over keen to ‘gather the weeds’ as we see them in other people. Reflect on the Master’s words ‘let both of them grow together until the harvest’. Is this not how things are in life, the mixture of good and bad in situations and in human beings?
The harvest is in the master’s hands -not ours. A suggestion from Barbara Brown Taylor is intriguing, she recounts her version of this parable and concludes:- ‘Carefully, gently, expertly, they gathered the wheat and made the rest into bricks for the oven where the bread was baked. And the fire that the weeds made was excellent, and the flour that the wheat made was excellent, and when the harvest was over the owner called them all together-the farmhands, the reapers and the neighbours- and broke bread with them, bread that was the final distillation of that whole messy, gorgeous mixed up field, and they all agreed that it was like no bread any of them had ever tasted before and that it was very, very good. Let those who have ears to hear, hear.’
We long for answers, solutions; help us to live with the questions. Remind us of that saying about the beam in our own eye.
Remind us of the need to love ourselves when we are more conscious of the ‘woeful weeds.’
Reassure us that we are called, loved, wheat that grows and flourishes in the soil of your love.
Please remember in your prayers:
- Tony Flewelling in Cheltenham hospital
- Jenny and Malcolm’s daughter Lauren recovering from appendicitis in GRH (Wednesday)
- Mary Coopey who has needed a scan this week
- Pat Robins on the loss of her brother
- All those who are finding this ongoing situation a real challenge