“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” [Matthew 13:24-30]
ZOOMING IN (in the new book…”The Red Letter Parables”…each chapter has two parts…1) looking at the individual parable or “zooming in” and 2) how it all ties into the bigger picture of things or “zooming out”).
For those of you who may be old enough to remember back to Bill Cosby’s early days in comedy (I am guilty as charged here), he was a really funny stand-up comedian and in those days, his humor was “G-rated”, as most comedians were back then. I miss those days. Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Bill Cosby, Jonathan Winters. All very funny and very clean.
One of my favorite Cosby bits, from those days, was his take on Noah and the Ark. God calls out to Noah, saying, “Noah, I am going to cover the earth with a flood. I want you to build an ark, so you and your family can survive along with two of each variety of animal” (I’m paraphrasing from memory, here). God continues, “I want you to build an ark of gopher wood, three hundred cubits, by fifty cubits, by thirty cubits.” Noah thinks for a minute and replies, “Right….what’s a cubit?” That was a classic. Hence, the name for this chapter, “Right…what’s a tare?”
I am calling Part Three, “Kingdom Answers,” because the Lord opened six of the seven parables from Matthew 13 with the words, “The kingdom of heaven is like.” And I truly believe that even the first one we looked at here, the “Parable Of The Sower,” spoke of a kingdom principle as well, even though Jesus did not actually use those words. It is true that God allows for His seed, His message of love and hope to be spread all over the world to every nation, tribe and tongue, both upon the good soil and bad. I believe God is able to reveal Himself, and does so, to every man, woman and child who has ever lived or will ever live here on Earth. Some of us would be considered “good soil” because we are accepting of His message and our hearts have been prepared, as good soil is, to give these seeds of life the best chance of bearing fruit. Other folks, for one reason or another are more like rocky soil. The seed does not even sink in…so it is easily eaten by those nasty birds or other varmints (don’t you just love that word, “varmints?” I do. OK, maybe I watched too many episodes of the Beverly Hillbillies). So yes, the quality of the soil is critical to a good harvest, no doubt.
Now we move on to another aspect of good farming, especially if you are a grower of wheat, “beware of the tare.” Having heard this story told and retold hundreds of times, I have always thought of the word “tares” to be synonomous with weeds. Others have referred to it as the chaff, as in the wheat and the chaff. While those are pretty good explanations and they do seem to help us to get to the heart of the matter, I did a little more digging to see if there is something more specific to be learned about those pesky things called tares.
And what do you know, there is. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines the word tares this way:
It is the Lolium temulentum, a species of rye-grass, the seeds of which are a strong soporific poison. It bears the closest resemblance to wheat till the ear appears, and only then the difference is discovered. It grows plentifully in Syria and Palestine.
So, yes, while tares can be generalized to be understood as weeds or chaff, I believe the Lord was using this word, specifically, to reveal something a little more stealth-like or devious about these “chokers of good seed.” Which is not unlike our spiritual enemy, Satan, who is also quite stealth-like and devious in his deceptions.
Turns out, if you buy good seed (which is why they asked the landowner if he sowed good seed into his field), it will not likely have tares mixed in with it, just good quality wheat seed. And that is why the landowner replied, “An enemy has done this.” The Lord was saying, “God only sows good seed. It is our enemy who comes and sprinkles in bad seed with the good, to choke out the good harvest before it has a chance to grow to maturity.”
But what makes tares so hard to discover, at least early on, is that it looks exactly like wheat. Until the ear appears, as the definition says, they look exactly alike. By that time, the damage has been done and some of the good crop may have been lost.
I’d say it is the last part of this story, in my opinion, that is so important to understand. I think it also helps to answer two of the most frequent questions that unbelievers ask concerning God. “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people.” And, “Why does God not punish the bad people sooner?”
The slaves ask the landowner if they should start trying to pick out the tares from among the wheat, now, before the damage is done. He answers them, “No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest..”
That is because He wanted to wait until the ear appeared, at harvest time. Then when they harvested it all, they could more easily tell one from the other and destroy the tares without damaging a single grain of wheat. He did not want to risk plucking out the good stuff with the bad.
Thank you, Lord. Anyone of us could have very easily been plucked, collateral damage, while He was trying to take out the bad guys. Rather God chooses to let them both run their course, for in the end, the differences will be crystal clear and the chaff will pay the price it deserves to pay, while the wheat or “the good seed” remains unpunished. Hallelujah!!
I think the “Kingdom Answers” provided by this bunch of stories (Part Three of the book) and how they apply to the underlying theme of the greater parable that the Master Storyteller is weaving throughout His earthly ministry should be rather easy to grasp. In the story of the sower, we are taught the importance of good soil, the importance of being “properly prepared to receive” the good seed that God is sowing in us through Jesus Christ.
Now, here in this story, we learn to watch out for the bad seed that the enemy tries to mingle in with the Lord’s good seed. The trouble is, many times it looks very similar. The devil is very sly. The apple that Adam and Eve were seduced into eating looked like good fruit that could have been produced from good seed. But it was spiritually poisonous, just as we learned the tares are “soporifically poisonous” to the wheat crop. The bad seed kills off the good seed before we have a chance to identify it as bad seed.
Here is what King Solomon had to say on the subject:
Every man’s way is right in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the hearts. [Proverbs 21:2]
To us humans, as fallen creatures corrupted by sin, our eyes have even a harder time telling the wheat from the tares, or that which the Lord is sowing into us vs. that which the enemy is trying to trick us with. They both look pretty good sometimes, right? That is why, especially for us men folk, our eyes are not to be trusted. My eyes really like the way those tares look sometimes, just saying. If I trust my eyes to determine what is good, I could be fooled quite easily. That is why the Lord looks at our hearts. That is where our true motives and agendas lie. Our eyes can be fooled and our ears can be fooled, but if we fill our hearts with His Word, if we eat the daily bread of life and allow it to nourish us and breathe life into the innermost parts of our being, we will not easily be fooled by the subtle tricks of the deceiver.
Beware of the tares, my friends. Let the light of the Lord reveal them for what they truly are…seeds sown by “an enemy,” as the story tells us. He is an enemy who seeks to choke the very life out of anything or anyone that belongs to our Creator.
As it was in the beginning, it is now. Nothing has changed.
And it will never change until the Lord comes back and gives “the devil his due,” a one way trip to the Lake Of Fire.