I remember a story my Papaw once told on himself, which my mother has repeated many times; she laughs herself nearly to tears every time she tells it and I recall him chuckling pretty heartily as he told it, too. I’ll relay it as near as my memory allows:
As far back as I remember, Granny always had flowers growing around the house, be it in beds, pots or where ever she thought they looked nice, of all different types. She had houseplants and perennials, annuals and the occasional vegetable; my grandmother had a green thumb, that’s for sure.
Once while she was at work, Papaw took it upon himself to “help her” in the flowerbeds after he had finished up his yard work. He was very pleased with all he got done that day and looked forward to her surprise when she arrived home that afternoon.
He was sitting inside, probably having a glass of iced water, when he heard her pull into the driveway. It took a few minutes for her to make her was inside, longer than normal, since she had stopped to see the work Papaw had judiciously put into the flowerbeds for her. The smile he wore as she entered the room was soon replaced by a look of “uh oh” when he realized Granny was wear “that” face instead of the grin he’d anticipated.
“Bill, what happened to my flowers?” she asked him.
“Well, after I finished mowing, I saw your flowers were full of weeds so I pulled them for you”, he replied.
Her face went intensely red at his answer. I only wish I could show you what I remember his face looking like telling the story and what I’m sure her’s looked like! It makes me laugh just picturing it.
With finger-pointing and waving and voice going instantly gruff Granny said, “Those weren’t weeds Bill! You pulled up all the flowers that were getting ready to bloom and left me with the dead ones; I won’t have any more blooms this whole summer now!”
He really, honestly thought he was helping Granny, not ruining her garden. I probably don’t need to tell you that Papaw never weeded Granny’s gardens again.
This story made me think about the parable of the wheat and the tares, or weeds. It is a strong lesson that Christ gave us, one we need to understand and heed. Let us begin with reading from Matthew 13.
24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
And then a few verses later in the same chapter:
37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. (Or end of time)
41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
I suppose the first thing to address here is about “time”: I’ve heard folks say this is fulfilled prophesy and not for us today and other, similar things. Well, to be frank with you, prophesy isn’t my area of interest, so to speak and I’m not too into discussing the subtleties of it, or dispensations. But I will assert this: This is as much for us today as it was for those who personally heard it roll of Jesus’ lips. This is a parable, teaching tool, which is still very much relevant as I write this and will be until the literal end of time.
The next time we need to understand is this: What is a tare? According to Wikipedia the definition is thus:
Darnel usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and is considered a weed. The similarity between these two plants is so great that in some regions, darnel is referred to as “false wheat”. It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. The spikes of L. temulentum are more slender than those of wheat. The spikelets are oriented edgeways to the rachis and have only a single glume, while those of wheat are oriented with the flat side to the rachis and have two glumes. The wheat will also appear brown when ripe, whereas the darnel is black.
The similarity to young wheat is uncanny. One Bible dictionary says this about the Darnel “These stalks … if sown designedly throughout the fields, would be inseparable from the wheat, from which, even when growing naturally, and by chance, they are, at first sight, hardly distinguishable.”
So, who are these “tares”? They are the same, in description, that the church has been dealing with as long as she has existed, longer really, as they extend well back into the Old Testament: The ones who profess outwardly their “religion” while their hearts are far from God or Spirit filled.
Mat 15:7-9 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, (8) This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (9) But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Mat 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
Old Testament and new, the Bible speaks of these tares always being present:
Psa 55:12 For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:
Gal 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
So this is nothing new, even though it may seem it to us.
The reason for these tares among us is simple, and given to us in the text “an enemy hath done this”, referring of course to the devil, Jesus later says to the disciples. Satan will, and always has done whatever he can to disrupt the church and weaken the saints.
2 Co 11:13-14 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. (14) And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Speculation beyond this point is useless, really, though we often will ponder and discuss it; God doesn’t tell us all the reasons He allows certain things. Some of these things He uses to test and strengthen our faith and dependence on Him. This, I think, is an area He allows and uses for such good.
Then question then begs to be answered, what do we do with the tares? Being children of God, heirs and joint heirs with Christ, we naturally want to eradicate them, pulled them up by their roots and toss them out of our midst. We think that these false-brethren reflect poorly upon the church. We think they allow the world to see these false-fruits, rotten fruit, if you will, and blaspheme the name and work of God and His children. We think about the relationships that are damaged among the true members of the Kingdom by these false ones and we are passionately moved to do something. And we are motivated by love, therefore to our credit, feeling we must do whatever we must to rectify the situation. But yet, we are wrong.
The Lord tells us why we are wrong in the very text we are looking at today; we, of and on our own, risk damaging the true “harvest”, plucking up by accident the real “wheat” in our attempts to right the wrongs we see.
God in His perfection and righteous judgment with sort out the tares from among the wheat in the end; He tells us so. How terrible would any one of us feel if we were to take this task into our hands lightly, and make no mistake compared to God’s judging of the situation all we can do is take it lightly, to learn later that we caused a brother or sister to stumble? And God forbid that stumble that we caused have eternal consequences on the soul of that other person.
Granny’s flowerbeds weren’t the same for some time after Papaw’s “help”. Being perennials, the flowers did what they do and propagated in time; I don’t know how long it took but they eventually grew back and looked nice again. But every time Papaw saw those flowers it was a reminder to him of the mistake, an honest one mind you, that he had made and the consequences of it. The church is a lot like the flowers in this story: though she be damaged or weakened, she will, through her members, work and grow again, producing a nice harvest in time. Like the perennials, the time it will take her will depend on man things, but the addition of new “flowers” is sure. You, however, don’t want to have a perpetual reminder of your “gardening mistake” like Papaw had: Your mistake would be much more costly, hurtful, and it could be the end for others and possibly even your our spiritual demise.
As we close today, think back a few weeks ago when we spoke about Joseph. He told his brothers that what they had intended for evil God had used for good. But first, when he realized the situation, he said:
Genesis 50:19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
We would be wise to follow Joseph’s example when we find ourselves in a “gardening conundrum” my friends.