July 20, 2008 â€“ Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
There were times when I was growing up when we tended to avoid heading to my grandparent’s places. Usually this was around haying time. Instead of having a relaxing day sitting and talking with family, we’d end up on the back of a truck following a tractor around the field and picking up the hay bales. Hard, dirty work that did not exactly bring about a restful weekend with family and friends.
These are the memories I recall when I read Jesus’ words this morning about the planting and harvesting of the wheat and the weeds. Jesus talks about the wheat being planted, and then someone else coming in and planting weeds. The people who work for the farmer seem to think they can pull out all the weeds to give the wheat the room it needs to grow. But what we need to know about these weeds is hidden in the Greek. The word for weeds being used refers to a plant that is remarkably similar to the wheat. It’s very difficult to distinguish between the two plants until it’s harvest time.
The farmer doesn’t want to risk losing any wheat while the workers try and distinguish which are the weeds in the field, so asks them to leave it until harvest time when it is easier to see which is which. To tear out the good wheat in trying to find the weeds, which they aren’t even sure if they are weeds or not, would cut into his harvest. It might mean the difference between feeding his animals and making a profit or going hungry. The harvest of all the wheat is very important to the farmer, the weeds will be dealt with at a later time, when the harvest comes.
There aren’t many times when we talk about judgement in this church of ours. But this parable is a very clear statement about the topic. Jesus is warning those around him to be wary of the final judgement. But also to be wary of judgement in general.
We are in the field. By looking around us, we think we know who are the good plants, and who are the bad plants. The bad plants being those in our communities we see as a bad influence, or maybe even evil. After all, it’s pretty obvious isn’t it? We can see who around us are good and who are not. We have our circle of friends we like to spend time with, and there’s also those people who we try to avoid because we are uncomfortable around them. We might even think we know who are destined for heaven and who are not.
Jesus tells us otherwise in this parable. We all look alike down here. We dress similarly, we speak the same language, we work, we have families, we’re pretty much the same. Just as the farmer tells his workers to leave the crop alone, to not judge one plant from another, we are told not to judge one another regarding whether we think Jesus would choose this person to enter heaven, to judge who they are in their heart by what we see on the outside.
Like the weeds that look very similar to the wheat until the time of the harvest, we cannot know for sure how those around us will be judged by God. We all grow in our own ways, we live our own lives, and until we are fully grown and matured, until we ourselves are harvested, no one knows how we will turn out. Until we are called to be with God, no one can know where we are in our walk with Him. God calls those who are His servants, those who know Jesus Christ in their hearts to be with Him. And God is the only one who can know that relationship, that commitment that we make. Those who are not His chosen people, well the parable is very clear, they will be left behind to be destroyed.
What do farmers often do to their fields before the next planting season? We don’t do it as much today, but it was common practice to burn the fields, along with all the weeds left behind. This is what Jesus is warning us about. Those who do not follow him, do not have a relationship with the living God in our lives, they will not join Jesus as part of his great harvest.
These are strong words for us this morning. What would Jesus have us do if we are not to judge one another as to whether we are a weed or wheat?
I think the answer is simple. We are to treat everyone as wheat. We are to care for one another as if we are all being harvested, and none of us will be left behind. This is how the farmer’s helpers were instructed to care for his fields, including the plants they thought were weeds. If people see how we treat one another as followers of Jesus Christ, then maybe they too will grow into wheat.
When I was here last month I talked about the value of evangelism. How we are to help people grow in faith, to walk with them and nurture them into a relationship with God. To help others become disciples of Jesus Christ.
This is how we help people become wheat instead of weeds. This is the beauty of what God has blessed us with in our lives. All through our lives we have the option to be wheat or weeds. We face choices all the time about whether we do the right thing or the wrong thing. In choosing to do the right thing, we can then become tenders of the garden, the farmer’s helpers who care for his fields. We can support and help people grow all other people by nurturing them in faith. We can allow ourselves to show how Jesus has impacted our lives and in turn help impact the lives of others.
Jesus says he has a team of harvesters, a band of angels who will come and collect the harvest. They will know who are wheat and who are weeds because Jesus will instruct them. We have no way of knowing, other than knowing ourselves. No one else can see into our own hearts, and the hearts of those around us, but God.
A few years ago I was in a group that was asked the question, â€œWhat if tomorrow morning Jesus took your place for one day. Did your work, talked to your friends, spoke the way you speak, living your life exactly as you live it. How would that make you feel?â€ Think about this for a moment. What if Jesus was you for one day, acting as you do, talking like you do? How would that make you feel? Proud? Ashamed? Scared?
To me, the answer to this question is a good indicator of how committed we are to being disciples of Jesus Christ. My own personal answer would be which day are you talking about? Some days I might be okay with such a scenario, others probably not.
We are the only ones who can know if we are wheat or weeds. Others cannot see into our hearts to know the difference. No one else can judge us, just as we cannot judge anyone else. Only God can see into our hearts and into the hearts of those who are around us. He is the final judge of us all.
So, when the final harvest comes, when Jesus returns to collect his people, remember, Jesus plants the good seeds. Seeds that will grow to be harvested by God into life eternal where Jesus said, â€œthe righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.â€