Summary: The meaning of this parable is found when one realizes where the field is where the good and bad seed are sown.
The Parable of the wheat and the Tares
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is one of the better known parables of Jesus. A parable is a story which something common was used to illustrate a deeper and spiritual truth. An example of this is the Parable of the Sower which was spoken on the same occasion. Jesus was not interested in this parable on giving advice on agriculture. Rather he was taking the well-known practice of sowing seed in the Ancient Near East and using it to compare to the results of sowing the seed of the gospel. The main points of that parable was to tell the disciples to broadcast the Gospel to everyone. Don’t get fancy about the presentation of the Gospel. Just broadcast it, and let God cause the increase. Not everyone would receive it for various reasons. But some would hear (obey) it and would produce fruit.
The Parable of the Wheat and Tares is also about sowing the word of God by broadcasting it to the world. So is the parable about casting the net and bringing up fish both good and bad. Broadcast, and then separate. Good and bad would be caught up into the net. Again, a net is a means of broadcast. It is not fishing with bait. We do not try to deceive people into the Kingdom. So all three of these parables are similar in this way.
What makes this parable different from the others is that it presents additional information. The new information is that their Gospel was not the only “gospel” in the world. Philosophers and Pharisees alike had different worldviews. They too sowed their seed in the attempt to gain followers. Paul talks in Galatians about the “gospel” the Judaizers brought. It looked like the Gospel. But it was poisonous like the Darnell seed planted by the enemy in the Lord’s field. As Jesus was quite hostile to the teaching of the Pharisees, which is especially prominent in the Gospel of Matthew, I would think that the Pharisees were the main target of this parable, more than Greek philosophy. Strangely enough, the Pharisees who were supposed to be opposed to the encroachment of Greek culture and philosophy actually adopted the Greek form of monotheism more than the Biblical one as Dr. Van Til observed. But what is important to note was despite outward similarities, they were diametrically opposed. The Pharisees held to the Scripture. They observed at least outwardly many of its teachings. They sat in Moses’ seat in the synagogues to teach the people. As far as what they taught was Scriptural, they were to be obeyed. But the disciple of Jesus must be different them in the inward content of the heart.
The farm workers told the owner of the field that some of the grain was actually a poisonous substitute. In other words, even though wheat and tares looked very similar to the untrained eye, the farm workers were able to discern them even before the plants came to seed. They knew they had planted good seed. The structure of the Greek question expects an affirmative response, “Surely we planted good seed!” The logical conclusion is that if there were tares among the wheat, that they had been planted by the enemy.
The owner of the field then was asked if the tares should be pulled up. He answered, “No, lest the good seed be uprooted with the good.” Roots could be intertwined, so that the wheat plants could be uprooted by the attempt. It is also true that even though the farm workers had some discernment , it was not perfect discernment. They were told to wait until harvest when the difference in the seed head would be obvious. Then the tares could be uprooted and burned. As the wheat was also ready to harvest, there would be no harm to it if the plant was damaged by harvesting the tares. They had served their purpose of producing good seed.
This parable has often been interpreted as though the field was the church. In this interpretation, the poisonous seed would by planted within the church itself. If one follows this, then Jesus’ admonition to let wheat and tares grow together to harvest would be telling the church to tolerate false teaching and teachers in the church. Let the good and the bad gospels be preached together. The discernment of which was which would occur at the Last Judgment. And even here, it would be the angels who do the reaping. One should note even here that the tares are gathered first and not the wheat. This is contrary to the teaching of the Rapture where the saints are gathered up, and the tares are left to the Great Tribulation.