Sept 20 = Living with Weed (Matt 13:24-30, 36-43)
Theme = Endurance, Fear, Commitment, Faith
Sermon: Living with Weed
The last parable was a description of endurance in the Kingdom of God. Jesus indicated that the soil/heart that produced good fruit and listened to his messages would grow and honor God. The point was not that we look for and judge other’s whose hearts do not produce fruit—the point was that we were to focus on being the one that did. We also, as God’s people, scatter the seed without determining who is good or bad.
This parable was similar to the first. It happened among the disciples (a crowd had developed and followed Jesus) and was told immediately after the sower, soil, and hearts parable. This story also involved a farmer scattering seeds, soil, growth, and good vs evil. However, the focus lay more in the issues of good, bad, and endurance.
In this story Jesus has told the disciples that, in private, they had the opportunity to understand what others did not understand, to hear what others could not comprehend, and to see what others ignored. Basically, the disciples were given the chance to have something very wonderful. Others ignored it because it was not precious to them. The first parable was simple, and others ignored it because it called for a basic following of Jesus. This parable, however, required an interpretation (13:36). While it was simple, it must have challenged them in both their belief system and their understanding of life in general. Here the message had to sink in—not that they were unwilling to listen, but what Jesus taught would have shaken them to their core.
The characters of the parable were explained by Jesus in private:
- Sower = Jesus, the Son of Man
- Field = the world
- Good seed = followers of Jesus
- Bad seed = followers of evil
- One who sows weeds = devil
- Harvest and harvesters = angels and end of time/period
Notice some important points in this story. First, the enemy put weeds in the field, not the farmers. Originally the farmer scattered wheat in his field. The soil was good and, unlike the previous parable, would produce a good crop. However, the seed was bad. The weeds, some suggest represent the plant “the bearded darnel” was a plant that supposedly looked similar to wheat until the grain ripened. This may be true, however the point of the parable was that the field was infected with bad plants.
Second, when the foreman was asked by the servants about the weeds he didn’t suggest that “God had a divine plan for this evil,” or that “God was allowing this for good.” He simply said, “An enemy (later described as Satan) did this.” He was to the point and placed blame where it was due. We often blame God for evil in the world rather than Satan, who is the source and author of evil, bad, and suffering. Even more there is a struggle to admit that evil exists, and that people have the potential to do evil. However, Jesus told the disciples that the weeds were “children of the evil one (Satan).”
This is difficult. Often with our work in domestic abuse we hear that children have lived in an environment where they witness horrible acts of evil, yet they hear, from those committing these acts that they mean well, or that they are not to be judged by their actions. Children struggle to develop and mature physically and emotionally because they are being taught to ignore the bad things being done by caregivers or those they trust. They learn that good people do bad things and good things. They are taught that it is not about my actions, but my intent or my heart. Somehow in their understanding of good and evil they come to the belief that people can say they mean well, but their behavior can be the opposite—yet this is not to determine the trustworthiness of that person.
In addition to this many counselors and those we have worked with in the Psychology and Bible guilds have struggled to label evil. While we acknowledge that people are basically or inherently good, the fact that many do evil troubles us. Do we further heap shame on them by labeling them “bad”? Does labeling people “evil” become a judgement by us, or a statement that they cannot change? Even more, do we forget that we also have an ability to do evil? Psychologist Jeffrey Means in his book, Trauma and Evil: Healing the Wounded Soul, suggests that many of us in the faith community, hesitate to define and therefore confront evil.
- One of the few places evil has been consistently mentioned has been within communities of faith. At the same time, the church and religiously committed individuals have tended to leave evil unacknowledged as part of their own worlds and to ignore and deny the depth of evil’s impact on people. When evil has been acknowledged, it too frequently is pushed outside. (9)
- When those of us in the church deny and ignore the potential for evil that resides in every person, we contribute to the church’s failure to address evil in its most basic form and to provide leadership in confronting evil. When those of us in the church ignore evil in the world, we contribute to the church’s failure to look at all of life, as well as to the church’s collusion in propagating the delusion that the world is a safe and benevolent place. When the church fails to confront evil at any level, it ultimately robs those touched by evil of the faith resources for which they so desperately long. (10)
For Means the church and other faith communities must not only identify evil, but confront it. While identifying it seems judgmental to some, confronting it offers us the opportunity to look within and remember that we too have the potential for evil.
In the case of the Parable of the Weeds and Wheat, Jesus does suggest that there are those who are of the evil one, and those of Jesus. Lest we assume this is only limited to “those saved” and “those not saved” the issue has more to do with people’s actions than their “acknowledgement.” For example, psychologist George Simon (who works mainly with behavioral disorders) in his book The Judas Syndrome: Why Good People Do Awful Things, indicates that there are people who are “bad” through their choices and actions.
- Some psychologists tell us that darkness lurks deep within each of us, but they cannot fully explain why some people prefer the dark and resist the light. (vii)
- Concerning “bad people” he wrote that these were, “individuals who know well the difference between right and wrong and understand what most others might regard as appropriate and responsible conduct, but who knowingly and purposely adopt an approach to life and dealing with others that is adverse, inconsiderate, and reckless. Such individuals frequently, and often deliberately, bring pain into the lives of those with whom they come into contact.” (2)
For both Simon and Means, who admit that the psychological community wrestles with evil, behavior, and rehabilitation; there are people who habitually choose to do things that hurt others and oppress people. The continual practice of this behavior produces an individual who habitually chooses to do that which hurts others. These individuals, whether we wish to admit it or not, would be considered “evil” or ”bad” in the Bible.
However, the parable is not meant to be a tool for us to label people. It is a story that suggests where God’s people should live, thrive, and spiritually develop. This may happen occasionally in private prayer and reflection, solitude, and/or behind the walls of a monastery. However, the parable tells us that Jesus’ people must live among the weeds and thrive in a dark world that may or may not change.
The point in this parable is that God’s people will have to live among evil so that:
- God can sort out the good from the bad
- The end of life will be a testimony to good and evil
- That we might be potentially effective to help others change
- We might shine and glorify God
- Notice that when they noticed the weeds—no one blamed the owner. The owner told us who did it.
This is what would have been troubling to the disciples. Jesus’ was labeled the “friend of sinners and tax collectors” not because he spoke nicely to them, but because he ate, hung out with, and spent time with them. As Christians we are not called to hide behind the walls of safety in a dark world. We are called to live in the darkness and shine our lights. While this is hard, and some will turn to the darkness, discipleship offers us the chance to thrive in this environment.
Often Christianity has focused on “belief” or “faith” as if actions, deeds, or behavior have little to do with our salvation, relationship with God, and walk with Jesus. However, this parable clearly tells us that there is a reward and punishment for what God’s people do or don’t do. Even more it is a challenge for Jesus’ servants to live in the world (field) and reflect God’s goodness, glory, and love. If we want to see change in our world, we must be the ones to live and reflect God’s goodness and Jesus’ love in a world where some reject it, yet many others accept it.
Even more, we need to ask ourselves, “How is God preparing me to live in the darkness and shine my light—so that Jesus is glorified and others are fed the fruits of righteousness?” Our task is not to retreat but to stand our ground until Jesus’ angels sort out the weeds from the fruit.
Questions for study.
- How do God’s people live among “the weeds” today?
- Is our response to retreat from what we feel is wrong in the world or to live beside others?
- Why is it important for God’s people to live among the weeds?
- Who was the source of the weeds? Who is the source of evil today?
- How often do people blame God for evil in the world?
- How do God’s people live among the weeds and transform our world?
- What does this parable tell us about our spiritual growth and discipleship?