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The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
All that I said in my previous entry regarding the parable of the Sower was in order to prepare for what I believe the Lord is saying in this passage, and for a message from the Lord that’s going to specifically be its most relevant for the Church living right before the return of Christ.
Before we get to that, I want to draw your attention to the fact that in the verses immediately following this teaching on the tares, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is LIKE a mustard seed: it starts off small, and then grows and fills the whole garden.
Keep that in mind while we look at this parable, even though contextually it’s written after the parable we’re currently in.
Jesus teaches in this parable that the seed is sown in the man’s field but that during the night while they slept, his enemy came and sowed the weeds among the wheat.
There are a few things worth noting here. First, the soil was good in this parable. The farmer had nothing to worry about. But it was his enemy who came and sowed the tares in the soil after the good wheat had been planted there.
We assume the farmer knew what he was doing and that he knew how to grow a crop, or else he would not have planted here if the soil was no good. It is the same with any truth of the Gospel message: only after truth is established and built on a proper foundation–proper “soil” if you will–can deception come in and attempt to choke it out.
You don’t have a tare without wheat, and can’t have a counterfeit unless there was something genuine to imitate. It’s how the devil has always operated. Even as far back as the garden of Eden, that serpent satan took the truth and twisted it.
What was the truth then?
That man would surely die when he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan’s tare he sowed into that soil was the statement he made to Eve “you will not surely die.”
Many deceptions in the church today are usually a twisting of actual eternal truth. They are only a perversion of God’s original intent in something, whether it be sexuality, money, or Gospel doctrines twisted, and whatever else have you.
What is a tare?
It’s a wheat-like weed. It has the appearance of wheat, but is in fact of different quality and source only resembling the actual wheat.
The enemy came in while the master was sleeping. He only comes in and plants his deceptions in areas where the Body of Christ has let its guard down or not stood alert. The Church must never be found asleep, but always vigilant and alert.
It was only over time that both the wheat and the weeds were discovered (v.26) when the plants had come up, so did the weeds. Implicit in the word “discovered” is the fact the tares weren’t obvious at first until a later point in time. As one grew, so did the other, both resembling the other initially for a time.
In verse 28, one of the servants came to the master and asked how there could be weeds along with the wheat, because they planted good seed and expected to yield a good crop. The enemy only looks for good seed to corrupt, that he might confuse and twist the GOOD word from bearing proper fruit. This is how he’s gotten some ministries off track in distraction with other fruitless pursuits (like we mentioned, with extremes in the realm of financial prosperity for but one example); the weeds grow in the context of the good—in the SAME field as the wheat.
Look at Jesus’ explanation of this parable in verses 37-43: He answered,
“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (ESV)
As a side note, notice it’s the wicked ones that are gathered first, so how do you fit this into popular rapture teachings, if as this passage says, is at the close of the age? I digress.
What do the false look like, and how will we recognize them?
Unlike the parable of the sower where the seed was the word of God and the soil was the person’s heart, this time the seeds are people— sons of the kingdom and sons of the wicked one, and the field is the world. The false look very much like the true wheat for a season even though it has a different source.
The only thing that distinguishes the true from the false is their source.
Wheat and tares come from different seed and they look very different by harvest time. During harvest season, the wheat matures and gets a full, golden head on its stalk. The weight of the mature head causes it to bow or bend (symbolic in this posture of bowing down in humility).
Tares are not so. In the early stages, the tares look very similar to the wheat, but at harvest they are seen for what they really are.
Translations that render this word tare as simply ‘weed’ miss a point that will be lost in the translation from the original text. The head of the tare, instead of golden is somewhat grey and it doesn’t bow (symbolic of stubbornness, and pride). It stands erect above the bowed-over wheat heads and is easy to identify—but again, only close to harvest time.
False phenomena will look very similar to the true for a season and will show up within the same field of holy phenomena as well as in worldly, occult and new age environments. This will be a great opportunity for the church to grow in discernment.
When will the false phenomena appear?
Verse 26 offers us the answer to this question. “But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.” (emphasis mine).
When you see true supernatural phenomena begin to manifest, you will also find the false. Again note: in the same field! Do not be surprised when this happens. Jesus said it would happen. The emerging of both will actually serve to identify the true for the Body. You can’t have counterfeits without genuine.
In our parable, the servant asked the landowner if they should uproot the tares when they became evident. The answer was “No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.” (V.29). We must be very careful not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, so-to-speak. The Lord will teach us how to respond to this WHEN it happens (note: not “if” it happens).
In the movie Batman Forever, Tommy Lee-Jones played the villain character Two-Face, and for every decision he’d make, he’d flip a coin and the side that it landed on determined for him which of two options he’d take. During the climax scene, while standing on a cliff, he tosses his coin in the air and at the same moment, the hero Batman pulls out several similar looking coins and throws them at Two-Face in an attempt to confuse and distract him. Two-Face attempts to catch all of them not knowing which is the genuine, and doing so loses his balance and falls from the edge to his death—distracted by counterfeit coins while attempting to catch the the real one.
The devil is like this—throwing a lot of false and counterfeits at us, so as to distract us from the genuine article.
Living Waters Ministry, based out of California, USA, has an evangelistic ministry and reputation for producing quality Gospel tracts. One of them is of a million dollar bill, resembling American currency, and has the Salvation message written succinctly around the edges of it.
On June 2, 2006, the United States Secret Service seized 8,300 copies of the “million dollar bill” tract printed by Living Waters Publications from the Great News Network (GNN) headquarters because a woman in North Carolina attempted to deposit the tracts as legal tender (despite the fake bills clearly stating “This is not legal tender.”) Apparently what got them off the hook, was the fact that there is NO such thing as a one million dollar bill, therefore they were not ‘counterfeiting’ it because there isn’t a genuine version of it in the first place.
Friends, the devil also does not create anything, he merely counterfeits something already designed beforehand.
Back to our parable.
The servants in this parable shouldn’t be faulted with desiring to remove the weeds. In some gardens and with some plants, this is a logical solution.
Every summer as a teenager I’d pull weeds out of my parents’ garden for cosmetic reasons, and if I had waited too long before yanking some of those weeds out of the ground, they were more established in that soil than one would have liked, and you’d uproot more than you wanted.
The master in this parable states something interesting; he says
“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (v. 30)
All causes of sin, and all law-breakers are removed—notice now—from the kingdom, not from the world. Even though Jesus teaches that the field in this parable is the world, it’s the *kingdom* all these things will be uprooted from. Preaching or talking about what God will remove from His kingdom is not really as popular as preaching about “your best life now”.
What happens to these tares?
“They are thrown into the fiery furnace, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, but the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”(v.43).
On that note, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater over every claim of alleged signs, and wonders and miracles. There ARE genuine manifestations of God, and those will increase, but there will be an increase of false ones also — they grow in close proximity and let the church grown in discernment instead of suspicion.
In closing, remember that Paul warned Timothy “the sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.” (1 Tim 5:24) God will do the uprooting, He doesn’t need your help. Preach, teach and live out the pure Gospel, so that your genuine ministry may withstand the testing on that day, which will be the subject of our next study as we continue with some of the parables in this chapter of Matthew.