The Dividing

Read Matthew 13:24-30

Watching people in public spaces can be a creative activity. Recently, I attended a community event which drew large crowds of people together. Having arrived at my assigned seat early, I had plenty of time to watch people move around the area. When given such an opportunity, I observe behaviors, clothing choices, interactions and expressions. From these observations I create scenarios in my mind regarding backgrounds, life  choices, and plans. This is a creative endeavor which creates a character profile with no factual information except for what I see during a brief encounter. Such an activity is a mental game which passes time but should never be seen as accurate in any fashion. It is more of a story telling exercise.

Jesus was a very effective storyteller. He would use stories, or parables, to communicate a complex concept. His stories made these concepts relatable to a person’s life. Our passage today is one of those times when Jesus tells a story. This story was intended to address the world situation where good and bad co-exist. Jesus also addresses how this will be sorted out. In the story we see recognition of the fact that good and bad stand side by side. Jesus tells the listener that the dividing of the two will occur at a later time, not now. In addition to the timing, the story also communicates that it is not our responsibility to do the sorting but when it is time the task will be assigned.

Back to my creative people watching, while I may use the determining of a person’s scenario as a time-occupying game, there are some who observe and make judgments about a person’s life in a serious manner. It is true that individuals who are called to be law enforcement officers and judges do this as a duty to society. They also operate within parameters and an indepth investigation of the facts. Jesus reminds us that we are not the ones who are to choose who is allowed to stay and who is to go. This will be determined by the Lord at a later time. Instead, we are to live together in harmony with one another. Let God worry about the dividing of the grain and the weeds.  God sees the whole situation, we do not.

The Good and The Bad

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV)

There was a time when soybean farmers would hire teenagers to work for two weeks in the summer removing weeds from their fields. If you were hired, you awakened at sunrise, put on jeans and layers of clothes, drove (or were driven) to the field bringing with you a hoe or corn blade. Once you had arrived you took your jug of water and the hand tool of choice and walked to one corner of the field. Then you spent the next four on five hours walking up and down the rows removing weeds you saw with either your hoe or blade. Some weeds, like button weeds, had to be pulled out by hand. The farmer always advised wearing gloves and  to be careful to only get weeds and not the bean plants. Inevitably one or two or fifty bean plants were cut out because the tool slipped or you were not paying enough attention.

Everytime I read about Jesus telling the story of the wheat and weeds, I think back to my years of walking beans. In this story, good wheat seeds are planted but as they grow, weeds grow among them. The farmer blames this on an enemy. He refuses the offer from his servants to pull up the weeds because he does not want to destroy the wheat. Instead he directs his servants to let the two grow together and sort them out at harvest time. Jesus presents this story to communicate that while good and evil reside together now, it will all be sorted out in God’s time.

When we look at the situations around us, we clearly see the coexistence of good and bad. We may desire to find ways to eradicate all of what we define as bad. In fact, we may be prone to ask the Lord why God does not remove the bad. We might even go so far as question why God even allowed bad into the world. During these series of thoughts we need to be reminded of two truths which are illustrated in this story. First, God did not bring the bad into the world, God introduced the good. Second, when it is the right time, God will indeed sort out the bad from the good.