Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Jesus teaches using stories from everyday life, divine truth revealed in soil and seeds, wheat and weeds, yeast and bread, fish and nets. Today is wheat and weeds. We may not be familiar with wheat, but our own lush summer garden growth includes plenty of weeds.
Jesus tells a story of something that happened so often that there’s record of this crime and its punishment in the civil law of his day: sowing weeds into another’s field. As we hear in the story, the weeds looked particularly like wheat when young. At first, one couldn’t tell the difference. Only later having grown up and starting to produce fruit do the weeds distinguish and appear.
This is the second of two stories in a row about sowing seeds. In the previous story which we heard last Sunday, a reckless, generous sower keeps sowing seeds in the face of much opposition, on a path and rocky soil and among thorns, in the face of the enemy trying to prevent the seed of God’s Word from being heard and received and used.
In today’s story, the wheat is in good soil. Even in good seasons of our lives, when we hear and receive God’s word and are growing, we still face opposition. The enemy is still at work trying to trip us up with weeds to make us stumble.
When the wheat grows up and the weeds distinguish and finally appear, they catch the workers’ attention. The workers want to get rid of them. They want to pull those weeds. How do you feel when you see weeds, especially in your own garden? Perhaps in a place where you had cleared out weeds just the other day? Sometimes it’s more irritating than others. That is the nature of gardens. But what if someone else had planted those weeds, had sabotaged your garden? How would you feel? When you or someone you love is insulted, threatened, hurt or attacked, what stirs in you? How do you want to respond?
Right the wrong with revenge. Fight back with force. Wound with words. Hit to hurt. Shame. Pull up weeds. Get rid of them. Get them out, out of sight. Let’s plan our own sabotage at night.
The sower says: No. If you try to pull up the weeds, you will pull up the wheat with them. They are intertwined. You would lose everything. Let them grow together. I will take care of it later. Wait. Be patient.
Wait? But these are weeds. This is wrong. It’s a crime. They hurt us. We’ve got to act!
There is plenty that is clearly wrong in the world: morally wrong, criminal, oppressive, unjust. It’s good and right to resist and stand against such power. But it matters how we do so. Fighting fire with fire, we get burned. Rooting out the wrong or repaying with revenge wrecks us too. Weeds cause us to stumble, cause us to sin, by provoking a response that can destroy us both.
A few chapters earlier, Jesus warned against impressive, showy followers, people who say: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name and do many deeds of power in your name?” To whom Jesus replied: “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.” People can do good work, do things for God, and yet miss the point by not getting to know God. Care for others without connecting to Jesus. Proclaim without praying. Live without loving. This is what Jesus calls being an evildoer. When giving the interpretation to today’s parable, Jesus says he will “send his angels and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers.”
Evil is not something just out there, but right in here, inside us who follow Jesus. We are evildoers when we wound with words, hit to hurt, and shame. We are doing evil when we respond with revenge and try to stop oppression with violence. Anger is not bad, but we often stumble in misappropriating it, particularly with other Christians.
Though we’re not literally burning heretics at the stake, we keep wounding with our words. With our differing interpretations of scripture and differing discernment of the Spirit we often devolve into divisive discord, throwing hurt back and forth. As we stumble in here with our spiritual siblings, so we stumble out there with all our neighbors.
As you consider your own life today, where are you hurt? What injustice breaks your heart? What seems so wrong that you want to get rid of it? What are you tempted to do or say or pull?
Wait. Be patient like the sower. Take the time to see clearly. Ask the fountain of wisdom. Whatever you do or say, let love shape it. For no matter what awful things another has done, no matter what awful things you have done, we are all God’s beloved children. Live with love. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
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