Summary: God’s concern is not so much to "separate the wheat from the chaff," but to preserve the "wheat" so that none of it may be lost.
"Cultivating the Weedpatch"
Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
Once upon a time there was a farmer who owned forty acres of good bottom land, and was known for the quality and quantity of the crops he raised on that land. One spring - just like every other spring - he plowed and furrowed and sowed in a crop of wheat. Then he sat back to wait for nature to take its course. Which, of course, it did. First came the refreshing spring rains, soaking the land and swelling the seed. Then the warm summer sun, drawing the new plants up to the surface of the soil. Everything went just as it had always gone, and soon the earth was green with lush growth.
But something happened on the way to the grain bin. One day, one of the field hands came in and told the farmer: "Something’s gone wrong. Something else was sown in with the wheat. You’ve got some other kind of grass in there, spoiling the crop. It must be bad seed. We’d better get in there ad pull out the weeds." But the farmer replied, "No, don’t do that. I inspected the seed. The see is o.k. Someone sowed bad seed in with the good. If you pull out the weeds, you’ll pull out some of the wheat too. The wheat will be o.k.. Leave it go, and we’ll separate it at harvest time."
Now, a lot of folks, when they look at this parable, think it’s just a rehashing of what Jesus said about the sheep and the goats, and conclude that Jesus is talking about how, at the judgement, he is going to separate the good from the bad. But that’s really not the point. What Jesus is proposing is really radical. Most farmers, in fact, would sooner plow under a bad crop and start over, than try to separate the seed at harvest. It certainly is a lot easier! But Jesus’ concern is that NONE of the good harvest be lost. And that is where we begin to understand the story.
In my own life, I have had a lot of difficulty trying to decide who are the sheep and who are the goats - who is good seed and who is a weed. Sometimes I feel more like a goat or a weed myself than a sheep or fruitful wheat. It’s too easy to separate humanity into two groups - them and us; the good and the bad. In reality, life is not like that. Most of us are both good and bad - wheat and weeds. And, in light of the gospel, we have to reject that way of looking at people. People are like a field into which both good and bad seed have been sown, or to put it another way - we don’t know what wheat has been sown in the most weed-filled garden.
That is where we begin today. Jesus’ concern is not to separate the wheat from the weeds, but rather than none of the wheat be lost.
This parable reveals to us three things: First of all, it reveals to us God’s sovereignty. God is sovereign. There is no dualism in Christianity. God rules. Many people don’t really understand that. Many think that God has given this world over to Satan’s control. They have the mistaken notion that Satan, not God, is at the helm of history.
I had the privilege of meeting Joni Erickson Tandi during the Billy Graham Crusade in Baltimore. She shared, very candidly, some of her experiences as the result of her accident. She said that, as she lay in her hospital bed, she often pictured God and Satan waging war in her body for control. And she was unsure who was winning. She kept feeling, "I have to be strong. I can’t let Satan get the best of me. I can’t let him beat me in this and steal my salvation." She felt God was a reactor - Satan had destroyed God’s "plan A" for her life; now He had to figure out a "Plan B" for her life. It wasn’t really what he wanted for her, but since Satan goofed up what he really wanted, He’d have to make the most of it, and see what He could salvage out of the situation.
But this parable shows us something else - God is the initiator. He is the One who does the sowing. Satan may sow weeds in God’s plan, but God’s plan is fulfilled perfectly anyway. Satan is no more than a tool that God uses to complete his purposes. God was - and is - in control. Always. He has no "Plan B" for us.
Yet it is hard for us to tune into that will, isn’t it? We are like the servants in the parable, in danger of tearing out wheat with the weeds. God works in our life, but we aren’t sure what he is doing, where he is leading us, or how we should respond. Like Job, we begin to question him - as Joni was tempted to do.