Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43 Wondering Why, Wait and See
Our passage today is the parable of the Wheat and Tares (weeds). There is a hymn based on this passage that we often sing at Thanksgiving. The hymn was written by Henry Alford. The first verse of this hymn states: For the Lord our God shall come/ And shall take His harvest home./ From His field shall in that day/ All offenses purge away./ Give His angels charge at last/ in the fire the tares to cast./ But the fruitful ears to store/ In His garner evermore.
The purpose of this hymn (like the parable) is intended to remind folks to be thankful and to remind us to be patient in the midst of the conditions of this world. Once again, at the end of the interpretation of this parable, we find the emphasis on the command to hear. It is important that we listen to this parable over and over. This is especially true in our age in which the marketing of church has taken priority over the mission of the church, which is to make disciples.
The focus of this parable, like the parable of the sower, points toward focusing on the harvest. Also, like the parable of sower, there is a warning for self-examination, lest one base their religion on a false faith with a false sense of security. In preparing this passage, I discussed it with another local pastor who brought up a very powerful truism: The greatest waste would be for someone to spend years connected to a perceived faith that they never were really a part. On the other hand, it is also a dangerous thing to think we have the ability to discern for ourselves who will be the wheat and who will be the tares.
In this parable we are told that Satan (folks we had better remember this entity does exist and is working to damage and destroy humanity because it his hatred for God) plants weed in the midst of God’s field. Satan loves to plant those he influences and controls among God’s people. Weeds can (as we learned last week in the parable of the sower) choke out the influence of God. However in this parable, the owner (our Lord Jesus) knows the attention needs to be placed not on the weeds, but on the wheat. So when the question asked by the workers about what to do with the weeds planted by the enemy, the response is not to worry, the weeds will be sorted out at the harvest.
Too, often, I believe we focus too much on the weeds. We focus on politics, we focus on money, we focus on what we don’t have rather than tending to what we do have.
Two stories that I heard this week in my study group: First, one person in our group talked about visiting the Ukraine. The Ukraine is known for its rich soil. In WWII, the Germans actually had trainloads of topsoil taken from the Ukraine back to Germany. Because of the richness of the soil, the Ukraine has always been able to produce a plentitude of crops. The pastor told about visiting the Ukraine and how everyone has a garden. In fact, every place where a garden can be placed, there is one. The pastor was taken aback, however, by the weeds. The Ukrainians do not weed their gardens. When the pastor asked “why” they were told, “Why bother?” The soil is so rich and there is always so much to harvest, the weeds really do not matter.
Again, in the parable of the sower, we were told what the good soil produced. The good soil is the heart has depth in trusting Jesus. It is cultivated by prayer. It is watered with the Word. It is fertilized with faith and fellowship, and it is warmed by the light living in the righteousness of a real relationship with God.
The other story had to do with the pastor’s yard. This pastor stated that every year, weeds come up in the yard. Every year someone would comment that something needed to be done about the weeds. They would want to go out and pull them. They would want to go out and buy weed killer. They would worry about the weeds. The pastor’s response was to not focus on the weeds but on the lawn. He fertilized and watered the grass. He aerated the soil. Soon the grass would grow thicker and healthier and each year there were less and less weeds to worry about. He had discovered a healthy strong lawn would overpower the weeds so that is where he put his focus.
Folks, in the local church there will always be those join but have never really become children of God.
Preacher, are you trying to get us to doubt our salvation? No, I am making a statement grounded in biblical fact. No one can look inside another person’s heart, but if there is no commitment to the Lord, no fruit in his service, no conviction, no repentance, and you are not living (as stated in Colossians 1:10) a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. Again, God has given us tools in the Scripture for self-examination and for spiritual confirmation. God wants us to be confident in his grace, but also to remember that grace is a gift given by Jesus. It is a gift in which God takes up residence in our hearts. We can stray, God will discipline. We can slip, God will lift up. We can and will sin and our Lord will be faithful and just to forgive us of our sins if we confess them. However, if you think that you can just mouth words, just join a church, just carry a Bible, and somehow this will magically make you a follower of Jesus, then someone has sold you a lie.
Folks, we all can have times of doubt. We should be convicted when we are not doing what we know our Lord expects. However, when we love someone and know they love us, the actions of each make those doubts fleeting and attitude of doing what the other desires gives us confidence in the relationship.
When Jesus told this parable, it was something the folks were quite aware of. There is a poisonous weed that looks a lot like wheat when it is growing. This is something that someone who hated you would do. Their purpose would have been to cause you worry and work, but if one waited, these weeds could be sorted out at the harvest.
Again the primary purpose of this parable is to remind us with our tendency to be impatience, just how important it is to learn to be patience. Patience is a key concept in spiritual formation. Patience depends on God’s timetable not ours. It reminds us our Lord is in control no matter what circumstance or situations this world or our adversary puts us in.
A check-out clerk observed a woman in the grocery store with a three year old girl in her basket. As they passed the cookie section, the child asked for cookies and her mother told her “no.” The little girl immediately began to whine and fuss, and the mother said quietly, “Now Ellen, we just have half of the aisles left to go through; don’t be upset. It won’t be long.”
The clerk, while checking on a price of a item, passed the Mother again in the candy aisle. Of course, the little girl began to shout for candy. When she was told she couldn’t have any, she began to cry. The mother said, “There, there, Ellen, don’t cry. Only two more aisles to go, and then we’ll be checking out.”
The clerk happened at the front when the woman was in the check-out lane, where the little girl immediately began to clamor for gum and burst into a terrible tantrum upon discovering there would be no gum purchased today. The mother patiently said, “Ellen, we’ll be through this check-out stand in five minutes, and then you can go home and have a nice nap.”
The check-out clerk complimented the woman. He said to her: “I couldn’t help noticing how patient you were with little Ellen…”
The mother broke in, “My little girl’s name is Tammy… I’m Ellen.”
Folks it is easy to get impatient in this world. It is easy to succumb to the temptations of anger, frustration, and futility. It is easy to want to do things our way. It is hard to be patient, yet patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Patience is a spiritual strength we need to develop.
Often times we wonder, why Lord. Why do you put up with things you put up with? Why Lord, what do things happen as they do? Why, because the Lord knows better than us. The Lord knows what the soil will produce. The Lord is patience with us, not wanting any to perish. The Lord is focused on the the harvest and so should we be.