<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> The Parable of the Wheat and Tares: God is Working On It
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The Parable of the Wheat and Tares:
God is working on it

By William R. Cunningham
February 4, 2007



The parables of Jesus are unique.  They tell us something and at the same time what they tell us may not be evident.  Parables are interpreted many ways and by various techniques.  However, surely Jesus only intended one interpretation.  Who is to say what Jesus’ true intentions were in regards to the interpretation of the parables.

The Wheat and the Tares

Let’s look at the parable of the wheat and the tares given in Matthew 13:24-30.

Matthew 13:24-30 (NKJV) -- {24} 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.” ’ ”

Let’s first briefly discuss parables so that we could better understand the point that Jesus is making here.  What is a parable?  A parable is a story that is told to make a point.  Parables typically use everyday experiences to relay a truth through the use of a story.  A closely related technique for doing this is allegory.  However, parables are not strictly allegorical in nature though they may have allegoric components and some parables are indeed allegorical.

What is an allegory?  An allegory is a symbolic representation of a truth or point.  The points of an allegory are representative of a truth.  The parable that we are going to discuss in this lesson is an example of an allegory even though it is a parable.  The difference between a parable and an allegory is that an allegory is not necessarily a story.  It could simply be a couple of lines that represent a teaching or truth, whereas a parable would be a short story to illustrate a point or truth.

Rabbinic parables were primarily used to explain or expound on the law whereas Jesus’ use of parables were primarily used to reveal fresh insight to the Kingdom of God. 

Let’s summarize the parable of the wheat and the tares and then look at Jesus’ explanation of the parable.

  1. “The kingdom of heaven is like” – right away we note that Jesus is revealing to us something about the kingdom of God
  2. A man sowed good seed in his field – I note the qualification of the seed (good).
  3. While men slept, an enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went away.  – It appears that the wheat was the good seed.  We also note the note that the men were sleeping.  This appears to be insignificant in regards to the message of the parable since Jesus did not elaborate on this when he gave the disciples the explanation of this parable.
  4. When the wheat began to grow, so did the tares
  5. The servants wanted to remove the tares from the fields, but the owner did not want them to do that, but instead told them to let the two grow together – This is interesting because we typically would spend a lot of effort to remove weeds from our lawn for example.  However, we should also consider that the wheat was planted with the intention of harvesting whereas grass is not.  Therefore, by uprooting the weeds it would be very likely to uproot the wheat as well.
  6. The wheat and the tares would be separated at the time of the harvest.  The tares would be burned and the wheat would be taken.

Okay.  That is a basic summary of the parable of the wheat and tares.  What does it mean?  What is Jesus teaching us?  First we must consider who he is talking to and who he gives the explanation to.  Jesus was talking to the multitude when he first presented the parable, but he gave his explanation to his disciples.  Now the disciples here may have been more than just the twelve that we normally associate with Jesus’ disciples.

Matthew 13:36 (NKJV) -- {36} Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

Now let’s present Jesus’ explanation of his parable.

Matthew 13:37-43 (NKJV) -- {37} He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. {38} The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. {39} The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. {40} Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. {41} The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, {42} and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. {43} Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

  1. The Son of Man is the sower of the good seed.  The term “Son of Man” is what Jesus called himself.
  2. The field that the seeds were sown is the world
  3. The good seeds (wheat) are the sons of the kingdom
  4. The tares are the sons of the wicked one
  5. The enemy is the devil, which makes the tares his sons
  6. The harvest is the end of the age
  7. The reapers are the angels
  8. Jesus is going to send his angels to gather out of his kingdom all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness.  These would then be cast into the furnace of fire
  9. The righteous will shine like the son in the kingdom of God after the evil ones are removed

What does this mean?  Here are some points that are made in this parable.  However, let me say something first.  A parable is typically thought to contain one main point; however it is possible that a parable may contain many points.  Another thing that I noted earlier is that this parable is very allegoric.  The items within the story represent a truth or thing.

It is important to realize that all parables are not allegoric like this one.  Now let us try to interpret the message or messages that Jesus Christ is presenting to us.

  1. Jesus Christ sows the sons of God into the world.  Now this is very interesting because one would think that Jesus would sow the word of God.  However, in this parable the people are sown, namely the children of God.
  2. The enemy has placed his people in the world as well
  3. There will be a separation of the children of God and the children of the devil at the end of the age.

Let me show you another parable before we go on here.

Matthew 13:47-50 (NKJV) -- {47} “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, {48} which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. {49} So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, {50} and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

Here we see another parable of Jesus Christ that basically says the same thing in regards to the separation at the end of the age.  The righteous will be separated from the unrighteous at the end.

There is an important consequence of this that is stated in the parable of the wheat and tares.  Remember that the wheat and the tares grew together.  They were not separated until the harvest.  We would love for God to remove the evil from the world now, but the fact of the matter is that it will be removed at the end.  The unrighteous and the righteous will remain in the world together and then at the end they will be separated.  The righteous will go to be with God and the unrighteous will go to utter destruction (not that they will be annihilated).

Lessons Learned

One thing that I have learned about this parable is that one of the common interpretations does not appear to be valid.  Some would say that Jesus was teaching how the church is sleep and the enemy infiltrate the church to spread bad teachings and the like.  These bad people look like Christians outwardly; it is said that the tares look like the wheat in the early stages of growth.  The problem with this interpretation is that it does not fit with what Jesus said.  Jesus gave the explanation of this parable and there is no need for us to develop another interpretation.

There are several things that we learn from the parable of the wheat and the tares.  As stated above, we learn that God will separate the righteous and the unrighteous at the end of the age (we might say that this is the judgment).

Another thing that I would like to point out is that there are two groups of people in the world.  These people are the children of God and the children of the devil.  Consider what Jesus told the Pharisees, who were religious leaders.

John 8:44 (NKJV) -- {44} You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

I believe that there are people in the world that are unrighteous to the core and operate in accordance with the kingdom of Satan.  They are like the tares.  Note that tares cannot be converted to wheat nor can wheat be diverted to tares.  Either you are wheat or you are weeds.  Now I can’t say that Jesus is making this particular point in the parable, but the fact that there is sufficient evidence in Jesus’ teaching of this concept of God’s people and Satan’s people leaves me to believe that there are indeed two types of people.

So what can we say of this?  The righteous and the unrighteous will coexist on the earth and they will be separated at the end of the age.  Our hope is not that God would remove the evil from the world now because we see that won’t happen.  However, we have confidence knowing that God is taking care of the evil in the world.

Another point we can take from this parable is that removing those unrighteous people could have detrimental affects on the righteous.  We must consider here that a child of God is not immune to deception.  We can’t say that the allegory of the owner of the field not wanting to pull up the tares during the growth period strictly means that children of God would be destroyed or the like if God were to remove the unrighteous.  However, we can infer that removing the unrighteous from the world would affect the righteous in some way.  At the very least we can say that God has decided to separate the righteous and the unrighteous at the end.

Let’s not fret because of the evil in the world today.  God has not abandoned us and surely God really does care.  His care for us may not be the way that we would like for it to be, but we do know that he loves us and is taking care of things in regards to the righteous and the unrighteous.  He has not abandoned us and he is always with us.

We look around and see so many evil people and we may wonder why God doesn’t do something about it.  Well he is.  He isn’t ridding the world of the evil at this moment, but history is moving towards the day when God separates the righteous from the unrighteous.  We are moving towards a time when there is no more evil to weigh us down.  We are moving towards a time when we will indeed shine like the sun in the kingdom of God.  Amen.

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