A farmer planted a field with wheat seed but, as he and his workers slept, an enemy came into his field and planted weed seeds in the same exact places there the wheat seeds had been planted. The strategy was to plant the weeds close enough so the roots would intertwine with the wheat roots. As soon the seeds began to sprout the workers noticed that many of the sprouts were not wheat – they were weeds. The workers immediately ran and told the farmer about the weeds – volunteering to start pulling weeds themself.
The farmer recognized that an enemy had secretly entered the field and sowed the weeds. I’m sure that the workers first thought was not ‘Who would do such a thing?’ Or ‘Who could possibly be an enemy to our master?’ Instead, I imagine that they asked ‘Who would have seeds to grow weeds?” Who would be so vengeful, so calculated, so hateful?
The farmer assessed the situation and told the workers to allow the weeds to grow up with the wheat. He knew the roots of the wheat and the weeds were already tangled. Pulling the weeds would result in pulling up much of the wheat.
So they waited until the harvest was ready and then pulled the weeds first, bundled and burnt them, and then, they will be free to pull the wheat.
The workers were to wait until the roots of the wheat would be untangled from the roots of the weeds.
I began to study wheat roots this week and quickly became overwhelmed. The roots are intricate and designed to seek out moisture in dry and cracked soil, but the most interesting and applicable thing about wheat root is in the seed itself. The wheat seed is created with the ability to grow different 2 root systems during the growth process. The first roots are set to support the system in the immediate stages of development. This system of roots remains fairly shallow and would be easy fodder for the roots of weeds. However, once the infant wheat seed stabilizes, the seed begins to grow the second series of roots which grow in a more vertical manner (which helps them seek out moisture), making them more capable of freeing themself from the weed roots.
This helps us understand why the newly sprouted wheat plants would be in danger if they were pulled up early.
After Jesus had told this parable, and had left the crowds, the disciples asked him to explain the meaning. He explained that he was the sower of the good seed, the field is the entire world, the good seed are the people of God’s kingdom, the bad seeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows the bad seeds is the Devil, the harvest will take place at the end of the age at judgement, and the harvesters will be the angels.
This parable, at first glance, appears to be a call for us to gather the weeds now, and to then burn them – however, the true takeaway is actually the opposite. Pulling up and burning the weeds is not our assignment in this story, and, in fact, according to our mission of not judging or condemning, we are clearly unqualified, and we will never be qualified.
Our job is to join the farmer in the wait; waiting on roots to be untangled and free.
I am not sure there could be a more difficult and frustrating role, honestly, I am ready to pull some weeds. Weeds that I have identified as putting our loved ones in danger, that are diluting and perverting the gospel, that are dividing us all – even within same faiths, weeds that are choking our love for God and destroying our ability to love all others as we love ourself.
The truth is that this parable is not about pulling or burning weeds, it is not about children of the evil one, it is not about us labeling humans good and evil, but, it is about the expansiveness of God’s grace, it is about the depth of God’s patience, it is about the full definition of what Jesus meant when he said that ‘God so loves the world’ – the limitless love of God, it is about God’s complete understanding of the human experience.
It is not about pulling up, it is about untangling and being free. It is about holding off judgement until the last root that is willing to be untangled is untangled.
Let’s begin with a few elements of the parable and Jesus’ explanation.
Let’s start with the sower of the weeds…
The word is used four times in the gospel of Matthew. Here in 13:35, the Enemy sows the weeds in the field. Back in 5:43-44, the We are instructed, by Jesus to love our Enemies, and to even pray for them. The third appearance of Enemy is in 10:36 where Jesus warns the apostles that they will have enemies in their same household, in their families. The final Enemy caution is found in 22:24 where Jesus harkens back to King David where we see these same enemy, the enemy that sowed the weeds, will ultimately be under the foot of Jesus as he is sitting at the right hand of God.
The Sower is identified as…
Our next element of the parable comes in the Devil. Here again, Devil is mentioned 4 times in the gospel of Matthew. First we see Devil in chapter 4 as Jesus is tempted by the Devil who is tempts him to be allied with the devil instead of God. The 2nd is here in our focus passage where Jesus identifies the enemy Sowing the Weeds as being the Devil. The 3rd comes in 16:33 when Jesus says to his disciple Peter ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ as Peter attempts to sway Jesus from God’s plan (something Peter does thinking it is the best way to save Jesus). The 4th mention of Devil is found in Matthew 25 as the King is addressing the unrighteous at judgement:
‘Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”Matthew 25:41-46
Let’s, now, return to our field full of wheat and weeds.
The workers have correctly identified that the field now has weeds growing alongside the wheat. However, the farmer is concerned, if the weeds are pulled in the early stages of the wheat root system development, their shallow roots will be intertwined with the roots of the weeds and the risk of killing the wheat is certain.
Since we are not the weed pullers in this parable, nor are we the enemy or the children of the enemy, so what is the call that comes out to us from this parable of Jesus?
The answer is that we have…
This takes us back to the first parable in Matthew 13 where we found the absolute necessity of having good soil in order to have deep roots. To til our own soil, making it receptive to truth, discerning those forces that will contaminate the soil – this is our unique call. Removing the toxins of hate and racism, the impurities that prevent our part in achieving justice and freedom in the lives of others, the poisonous particles that lead us to reject truth moving us to complacency, everything that destroy our soil and inhibit our roots.
Tilling the soil is a very individually intentional process. It starts with standing guard over those elements that are permitted into the soil, asking, are we allowing the politics of division, are we welcoming the religiosity of judgement and condemnation, are we seeking and searching for truth, do we love mercy and justice for all, and, are we rejecting lies and deceit?
Are we taking our soil seriously, or have we outsourced it over to others? Are we accepting all the seeds being thrown in our direction or are we seeking to reject the bad seeds from our soil?
And, after that, we ask, ‘do we have tangled roots?‘ and ‘How do we untangle the roots?’
God tells us to ‘wait’…and, in telling us to wait, God has signaled what he does, as we grow deep roots and we work to untangle from the weeds…
God’s grace, his guidance, his mercy, his compassion, his hope, and his love, waits, alongside of us and for us.
When the weeds were sown in among us, he didn’t do a risk assessment to determine how many wheat plants it would be okay to lose if the workers were to pull the weeds right away, making a wheat harvest much easier and less costly later, resulting in higher profit. No, every wheat seed was important and valuable, they all were needed in the field.
He doesn’t give up on us, he doesn’t ridicule us, he doesn’t condescend towards us, he doesn’t reject us, he doesn’t turn his back on us, he doesn’t replace us, he doesn’t ignore us, he doesn’t dismiss us….He waits.
You see, as God does his job as the sower and the farmer, he addresses the concerns on the surface. He guards the fields from herbivorous predators and other destructive pestilence.
He, having given us free will, and the power, he waits for us to develop and untangle our roots so we are ready for harvest.
Time to interject Important Note: Jesus told this to those who had the mission of untangling their roots, the very people he was calling to do the personal work. He further explained it to his disciples who were also called to a work of personal root untangling. And, over two thousand years later, he calls us to the same. If you are hearing, or reading this, you are not a ‘child of the evil one’. In fact, one of the first weeds the enemy will try to tangle in your roots is this lie, that you are hopeless and too far tangled, you are not.
See, when we identify growth problems in others, things that we mistakenly judge and condemn as sin, it is actually a much deeper problem – a tangled roots problem. The same is true for us, tangled root problems.
Throughout this pandemic God has brought world wide tangled root problems to our attention. There have been two obvious, constant, reminders constantly being thrown before our eyes.
This past Friday, as I was still struggling through this parable and particularly with God’s primary point for us – Grace Fellowship and all believers, today and in this time – God turned up the volume, literally, the volume on the television news. The voice was a mayor of a large city in a state where Covid numbers are rapidly rising and surpassing record numbers. The mayor, looked as though he was in the midst of a campaign rally standing before a large crowd of supporters. What caught my eye was that he was wearing a mask, something we do not always see in our political leaders. As the mayor spoke his tone began to change, he dramatically ripped off the mask, and declared that his city would survive without those ‘silly things’. The audience roared with applause and laughter.
This mayor, as well as the crowd, has a tangled root problem. They have allowed their roots to become tangled with roots that are not concerned with the health of others which, ironically is causing them to not care about their own health. They have put their own agendas ahead of truth, they are listening to politicians and to a very agreeable exclusive, and small, group of scientists who are in line with their agenda, instead of those who are risking everything to give us truth. They have a root problem tangled with roots that is preventing them from loving others as themselves, and, therefore of loving God.
In the northeast Oregon, a church that insisted on continuing in person worship services is tied to 236 positive tests, in West Virginia a church is linked to over 51 positive tests, in San Antonio a church is tied to 50 cases, in Tennessee a pastor said that he stopped counting after hearing of 12 members testing positive following attending in person worship, a Christian camp in Missouri shut down after 82 individuals positive cases were tied to the camp. All of these outbreaks took place just in the month of June. All of these institutions had taken precautions. All of these had a root problem. Tangled roots caused them to harm rather than to love.
Our White House, this week, demanded that hospitals begin sending their Covid test numbers to the White House instead of the to the CDC. Tangled roots of political agendas, as they often do, have made vital truth even more difficult to find.
The other occurrence that we have seen since the beginning of the Pandemic is the protest all over our nation demanding justice for those American, and humans, of different races. This is not a new problem, but it is a deeply dismissed and ignored problem. We have responded to the protests by pointing out the rage presented by those dealing with a full ancestry of oppression and racism. They have been killed at a disproportionate rate and have frequently been ignored by our justice system. We respond with comments like, ‘If they would just act differently, if they could be like us…’, if they wouldn’t protest and riot’ – instead of considering the damage of pain and oppression. Interestingly, we herald the revolutionaries in our own history, who threw tea into the water, tea that would have been one million dollars loss to the owners , George Washington was against this protest. Still he love this story as pivotal in our freedom.
Politicians have recently responded by saying ‘White people have been killed to…’. Which is not only ignorant in its revelation of misunderstanding but also as unChristlike as is humanly possible.
God is waiting for us to untangle our roots,
he is prompting us to recognize our problems beneath the soil by letting us see the problems that are blatant above the soil. He is lovingly revealing to us the work that is still needed before harvest time.
He is calling us to stop tying to pull the weeds from others based on our own judgmental and condemning perceptions and, instead, check out our own roots.
He is calling us to free our tangled roots from all the evil seeds that are keeping us from the greatest commandments from God. Love.
God is calling us to Revival
If you grew up in an evangelical church, you have surely heard it prayed ‘God, bring us revival.’ God is bringing us revival, now. This revival does not fit the perimeters that have heard it prayed for however, it will not involve emotional church worship services where great music leads the participants to raise their hands, close their eyes, maybe even drop to their knees in tears. It won’t involve an outpouring of confession of personal sin or even multitudes coming to know Christ. It will, however, be very personal, very private. This Revival involves each of us, that are followers of Christ, to begin untangling our roots. To untangle from the roots of politics, agendas, personal rights, hatred, racisim, selfishness. It will be a revival of God pointing those out to each of us privately. This revival is already underway – it is time that you and I join in.
God rejoices in unity, the enemy delights in division; God desires peace for us, the enemy seeks to sow chaos in our lives; God passionately encourages us to have good soil and deep untangled roots, the enemy seeks to render our soil toxic and our roots shallow; God desires justice, the enemy incites prejudice, racism, and violence; God is merciful, the enemy is vindictive; God leads us in a life of hope, the enemy leads us to ruin; God is love, the enemy is hate.
God waits patiently until the day when he can say to us,
‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’Matthew 25:32-40
Let us pray.