“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in our field? How then does it have tares?’ 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?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, but 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.” Matthew 13:24-30
I had lunch the other day with a friend who is deeply involved in ministry with both children and adults. She is ‘out in the field’ you might say, every single day. She told me there’s a word that keeps coming to mind lately in her dealings with people both in and out of the church; Sifting.
Sifting… of tares from the wheat. Separating and isolating what is useful from what is not.
Like almost any other church or Christian school, we try to look like a uniform bunch of wheat from the outside, same shape, size and color. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll see that of course, it isn’t all wheat. As much as we try to make this field a bubble, it’s still just an open field.
Jesus says later in the parable that the field is the world (v. 38). In the world there is an enemy roaming about sowing tares among all this wheat. The unfortunate thing about these ‘tares’ is that they grow almost exactly like wheat in appearance. Even the workers of the field could not distinguish them from the good crop. The only way to deal with them was to wait until both had matured when there was a noticeable difference in appearance and then separate the two. Even then, the process was violent and time-consuming.
The words of the servant to his master resonate so much with me. “Um… sir? Did we not plant only good things here? What just happened that there are all these weeds popping up? This is unacceptable!”
Things sown in darkness will eventually come to light. The Master knows exactly what is going on. Just as the worker is ready to go ‘gather up’ the noxious weeds, the Master stops him. “No. Wait. You’ll do more harm than good if you pull them out now, for their roots are so intertwined, you’ll kill everything. Wait just a bit longer…” That poor guy. That probably wasn’t the answer he was looking for.
As we sat and talked more about this ‘sifting’ and what it meant, there was both an excitement and a dread about the whole thing. Excitement because nothing agitates me more than false ideas parading around as truth. It’s my thing, my hang-up, my niche, whatever you want to call it. I don’t even mind that there are weeds in the field of the world, but I cannot bear when they parade around as the real deal. Christians in name only who are joined at the hip with the world, feeding off of the latest pop-culture Christianity instead of God’s Word… I just cannot. Dread, because this sifting is going to involve people who, up until the end, had the appearance of wheat. The only place to go once bundled and tied up is into the fire. That’s a huge deal.
“Let them grow together… BUT…”
Things can’t and won’t “co-exist” like this forever. As I write this, there are ten of those cultural Christians telling their followers that it’s ALL GOOD. Love all, serve all, do whatever and accept whatever because that’s what Jesus did. I’ve read some whopper posts in the past couple of days. One told Christians to stop complaining about what the government is doing and start feeding the poor, because… Jesus or something. Someone announced today that she isn’t even sure if prayer works, but that we should all be praying just in case. These are the weeds people. They look right from a distance, but a closer look reveals they are from an entirely different seed.
“BUT… gather the wheat into my barn.”
The separation will be made. The sifting will happen. Only God can do this, only He can untangle the roots and shake us free from everything that has tried to be a snare to us. This is good news for those of us who are like that field worker. We can rest. He knows just when and how to do it.
At the end of our lunch, we threw out the question to ourselves and to God… how do we do this? How do I remain “wheat” in a field of weeds? Why are certain untruths/injustices SO VERY AGITATING to me right now? What is our role in all of this?
I don’t have all those answers yet, but I’m grateful that we serve a God who will show me when I ask. He wants to reveal truth to us and equip us to use it. In the end, we get gathered into His big barn anyways, lets bring as much wheat as we can with us.