What does this parable mean for 21st century Christians?
Again this week Jesus is teaching through parables. The parable of the ‘Weeds among the Wheat’ – Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43 – is a story of the good seed and bad seed growing together until the judgement.
The weeds and the wheat grew up together. Some time passed before the hired servants noticed something was wrong and asked the owner, “Did you use only good seed in your field?” “Yes, I did,” he said.
“Well, weeds and wheat are growing together,” they said. “Do you want us to go into the field and pull up the bad weeds right now? We can tell the difference between the bad weeds and good wheat?”
“No,” was the owner’s reply. “Let the weeds and wheat grow together. If you pull up the weeds now you will pull up the wheat as well. Let them grow together until harvest time.”
Later, the disciples asked Jesus the meaning of the parable. We ask the same question: What does this parable mean and how does it apply to our lives as 21st century Christians?
Very often in the church there is the tendency to try and sort out ‘who is in’ and ‘who is out’ – people, for instance, who don’t measure up to the standards some expect of them – people who think differently, or worship in another way, or people who may not be as pious, holy, prayerful and as pure as others.
Marcus Borg reminds us that historically and culturally there are many ways of being Christian, many ways of interpreting Christianity and living the Christian life. “The notion that there is one right way of being Christian,” he says, “is made impossible by thinking about the diverse configurations there have been in Christian history.”
Jesus in the parable of the weeds advised his hearers not to be overly hasty in pulling out the weeds. Because, as he notes, it's not always easy to tell which ones are the weeds and which ones are the good plants.
When the astronomer Galileo announced that the earth moved around the sun, the church declared him to be a heretic, because the church wanted to keep on believing that the whole universe moved around the earth.
So the church saw Galileo as a weed who was infecting the church, a weed who needed to be removed. But centuries later, the church finally came to realize that Galileo was right.
We also learn from the parable that there will be a final judgment, a time when God will make a final judgment between the good and the bad.
We find this same theme in other parables of Jesus, such as the fishing net in which a fisherman catches a variety of fish and then separates the good fish from the bad fish. So it is with God at the end of history who will separate the good from the bad.
This parable is a reminder that how we live our lives – in the here and now – does have eternal consequences.