A Tare or a Wheat

Matthew 13: 24-30

Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who 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 grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

In the parable above, the wheat (God’s true servants) and the tares (those people who may at first appear Godly, but who are actually placed by the enemy) are discussed. For those not familiar with “tares,” the word is from the Greek, zizanion, which means, a kind of darnel, resembling wheat, except the grains are black. When they first begin to grow, the two look very similar, and the true difference can’t be fully ascertained until the time of harvest. Some commentators add that the wheat “bows” when the head is full of grain at the time of harvest, but the tares are stiff necked, proudly showing their black grains above the surrounding wheat.

The disciples asked Jesus to explain this parable in verses 36-43. This is a picture of the world today. The field is the world. The good seeds are true Christians. The tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Notice how like us the “servants of the owner (Jesus)” are. Upon seeing the tares, they ask the owner (Jesus) if they should gather up the tares and remove them. This is very similar to the disciples asking “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” when they had become offended because the people of a certain village did not receive them (Luke 9:54). In that case, Jesus “turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”” (Luke 9:55-56)

We see the similar response by Jesus in the parable of the tares. While it may be our natural desire to remove those who are not truly serving God – even those mixed in with the true Church, attempting to deceive the world with an appearance of Godliness, this is not the way of our Lord. As He said, He “did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And with the tares, He says to let them be, and whatever is a tare will be separated and sorted out at the time of harvest.

While this parable does speak to the world as a whole, it can also speak to individual church bodies, or even governments. In the view of the Church, we must always be diligent. It was “while men slept” that the enemy was able to come in and sow his seeds of descent. Because it is God’s desire that “all men be saved” (1 Timothy 2:1-4), we should always be praying, seeking God that all would “come to the knowledge of the truth.” Jesus says not to tear out the tares, but to let the angels of God do that at the time of harvest (end of the age). This is not only for the protection of true Christians who may be hurt in the tumult of our feebly trying to distinguish between tares and wheat before the time of harvest, but this is also for the hope of the tares themselves!

The reality is, we are all born into this world as fallen creatures – “tares” of the devil. Until our accepting of Jesus as our savior, we are not “wheat.” God waits with longsuffering for us to come to Him, and accept Him as Lord. He does not desire that any person should perish (2 Peter 3:9). This is why we should pray for others, seeking God “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in (Christ)” (Acts 26: 18). Contrary to the world’s view of people, God’s view of people would not be “once a tare, always a tare.”

We are not to remove the tares. Rather, we should pray that God would convert them to wheat.

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