Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
24 [Jesus] put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, "Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' 28 He answered, "An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, "Then do you want us to go and gather them?' 29 But he replied, "No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' " 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." 37 He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
And now a few words: Nothing sounds quite as fearsome as “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. It’s a colorful phrase and even if you aren’t entirely sure what gnashing teeth sound like, it is still possible to understand and to know that where those two things exist , you don’t want to be. This natural conclusion causes many people to focus intently on being wheat, on rooting out sin, on pointing out the weedy behavior of those around them.
The problem with that arises in the fact that wheat and weeds are in all of us. We each have behaviors, make choices, take action that are “wheat”- productive, healthy, God-revealing and God-reveling parts of our lives. Within this nature, which is God’s plan for our true selves, the forces that oppose God sow the weeds of dissention, frustration, idolatry, neglect, and antipathy. The Holy Spirit works to water what is good and to pull us toward enjoying the fruiting of the wheat. As we acknowledge and enjoy the gifts of God all around us, the wheat flourishes and the weeds languish.
In the time to come, when the forces that oppose God are silenced forever, the weeds will be burned away. Fully sanctified, we will have been brought into perfect love by the unending love and grace of the Creator of the universe. Jesus is teaching his hearers this truth and how to behave until that time. He assures his disciples, then and now, that the wheat- the good things in our minds and hearts and habits- will not stop being tended by the Spirit, by the angels, by the prayers of the saints.
We can collaborate in this work for and with one another. And we should. The tending of one another’s wheat, of lifting up, of watering with compassion, of fertilizing with forgiveness, of cultivating with community, is exactly the work of the kingdom to which we have been called.