Bible Text: Matthew 13:2-30, and 36-43 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes | Devotional
I call myself a bio-dynamic gardener. I tend to plant things and them leave them to their own devices. Some might call me a lazy gardener. One look at the patch of dirt in our backyard would demonstrate that. A few years ago I planted Rosemary, Lovage, and lavender in an effort to have an herb garden. I did nothing with it after that. The Lovage now reaches higher then the fence and the Rosemary and lavender are crowding each other and some how I have also discovered, parsley, cilantro, chervil, oregano, mint, lemon balm, and even strawberries among the original plants. Say nothing of the chickweed, dandelions, and clover now found in the garden. I decided that this Spring I would attempt to remove the weeds so I did a little research and this is what I discovered. Not only do all three attract pollinators but each has a helpful purpose in soil health. Chickweed is said to accumulate potassium and phosphorus and is edible. Leaving chickweed actually enriches the soil. Dandelion roots accumulate not only potassium and phosphorus but also calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and silicon. The leaves, roots, and flowers are all edible and can even be made into some homemade wine. Clover is a nitrogen fixer. It even transfers airborne nitrogen into the soil to be used by neighbouring crops and guess what, the flowers of white clover are also edible. This tells me that some weeds are rather beneficial to my garden and as a result instead of weeding I made use of the edible options in this hodgepodge garden. I realize entirely that this is not the point Jesus is making in his parable of the weeds and the wheat. In fact, Jesus is really clear that weeds are evil-no ifs, ands or buts about it. But this knowledge that some weeds are beneficial to the garden has given me a slightly new perspective on this passage.
Jesus is continuing to use parables to explain the kingdom of heaven. Prior to this passage we have the better known story of the Parable of the Sower which Keltie preached on last week. Like that first parable this one includes a private interpretation for the disciples a little later on. Today’s parable also continues that sowing theme but instead of one sower there are two. There is the sower who plants good seed and then there is the enemy who comes and plants weeds among the wheat. I will point out that in some translations instead of the word weeds it is tares or darnel. If any of you have the King James version memorized it uses the term tares. Why this is relevant is because a tare or darnel was a specific kind of weed that looked like and even tasted like wheat but was actually poisonous, causing drowsiness and nausea. So, if we were to use the word tare, then most definitely this is not one of those beneficial weeds. It was hard to distinguish between the two as they grew, until the ears where developed. The ears of wheat are heavy and droop while the ears of tare stand up straight. However, it is possible that the original weeds were not tares because the weeds that do grow among the wheat are distinct enough that the labourers can tell that someone has planted weeds among the wheat.
The dialogue between the master and the labourers is also rather interesting. I suspect that it was a pretty odd thing to have a labourer accuse the master of planting the wrong kind of seed. Then the labourers are anxious to deal with the matter right away. Even I know that it is better to pull weeds as soon as they appear rather then let them take root. But the master says that he will allow them to grow up together and only at harvest time will the weeds and the wheat be separated. The master is essentially saying it is not up to the labourers to decide what is a weed and what is wheat.
This is an important observation when we get to Jesus’ explanation of the parable. Jesus clearly states that the master who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man, meaning Jesus himself- what he plants will produce good wheat. While the weeds are planted by the enemy, or evil one- there are numerous ways of interpreting who or what that is. I prefer to think of it as all those things that influence or distract us from being the wheat we are meant to be. But then, notice how Jesus doesn’t say who the labourers are, or as it says in the NRSV translation who the slaves are.
I suspect that the slaves in this story represent the disciples- including those disciples that have come generations later. Here’s why I think this. The labourers wanted to get rid of the weeds as soon as they showed up but the master said it is not up to the labourers to decide what is a weed and what is wheat. That job is up to the reapers. It is not up to us to decide what is wheat and what is a weed because some of the things that appear to be wheat may actually be tare and some of the weeds may actually be beneficial. Plus, the master is very clear that uprooting the weeds would uproot the wheat, meaning that the roots of both are so intertwined that uprooting one would destroy the other. This is similar to a theme that comes up often in the Psalms, that it is not up to us to judge the actions or behaviour of our sisters and brothers that is God’s burden alone. It is not our responsibility to ever decide who is in and who is out.
Now this leads me to a dualism in this passage that makes me uncomfortable. It implies that there are two types of people in the world, children of the kingdom and children of the evil one. However, my own personal experience is that sometimes I am a wheat, I’m growing pretty good, and sometimes I am a weed, distracted by things that drive me away from God, and sometimes I’m a good weed trying to be a benefit to those around me. I don’t think this is about two different groups of people but rather the the roots within ourselves, roots that are so intertwined that sometimes it is hard to decipher between them. But that is where grace steps in because every time my weedy side steps in I know that I can transform, thanks to God’s grace, the Holy Spirit’s guidance and Jesus’ example, into something beneficial that helps me and those around me to grow.
In closing, I want to point out that as serious as the parable sounds, with images of masters, slaves and enemies all working in the same field, with the weeds being collected and thrown into the fire, with the reference to weeping and gnashing of teeth, Jesus actually has fun in this parable because he finishes it off with a pun. Remember both wheat and tare have ears and Jesus says, “let anyone with ears listen!” This pun is not only hilarious but points to the idea that anyone-bad wheat or good weed has ears and has the potential to grow into the people God intends us to be. Amen