You know, I’ve never seen any sign, or evidence or meven a hint that the roses or the rhodies or the geraniums or any other plant in the garden has ever done even a tiny bit of harm to a weed, much less dug it out. The grass doesn’t kill the dandelion. The most I can hope for is that the groundcovers I plant will prevent the plants I don’t want (aka weeds) from sprouting; the grass will crowd out the dandelion.
Keep that image in mind as we talk about this parable. I think this story can set off a number of different knee-jerk reactions simultaneously.
It sets up a stark binary,so common in Matthew, like the narrow gate or the wide road, the dragnet with the good fish and the useless fish, the wise and foolish wedding attendants, the sheep and the goats, being welcomed into the kingdom or thrown into the outer darkness. This morning we hear about the wheat and the weeds. At the end of the age they will be judged and either burned or gathered into the barn.
Anyone raising their hand and jumping out of their seat like Hermione, “I’ll be wheat! I can be wheat. Please let me be the wheat.” Or quietly sitting in your seat, head down, hoping and praying, “Oh, I hope I’m not a weed. Please don’t let me be a weed.”
At the exact same time, you may be imagining yourself as the servant warning the landowner about the weeds and wondering why the landowner says to leave them alone. I mean, aren’t we supposed to root out evil?
Jesus explains that we’re the seed, not the servant, and certainly not the master. It is not up to us to root out the evil in the world. But, oh, don’t we wish God would just get on with it and destroy the evil in the world. Wouldn’t life be wonderful?
Let’s think about this a little more, though. Initially, we may turn outward, looking at this good/evil binary out in the world. But what if we spend a little time turning inward, reflecting on ourselves. We usually find that we’re both sheep and goat, wise and foolish, wheat and weed. So maybe it’s a good thing that God isn’t in a rush.
We can appreciate the slow, patient activity of God. The wheat in us is young and immature. It needs time to mature and grow strong, nourishedby the soil and the sun and the rain; the grace of God. God doesn’t rush to destroy the weeds in us, ruining the wheat along with them. Instead, God allows the wheat to grow strong enough to crowd out the weeds, to mature and bear good fruit.
It is when we embrace this truth, that we can even more fully appreciate what we heard in the reading from the Wisdom of Solomon this morning.
The author is addressing God, describing how God has treated the enemies of the People of Israel, showing leniency and withholding God’s power to punish more harshly. Responding slowly, God allows those who have sinned to repent.
In showing patience and leniency toward those the author calls “inherently wicked,” God teaches God’s people that righteousness shows kindness.
Even more, the People are given hope, assured that God is patient and merciful; that even when they sin, God gives them the gift of repentance. God will not harm the wheat in an effort to destroy the weeds. Thank God.
What, then are we to do?
The purpose of wheat is to be wheat. To be nourished by the sun and the rain and the soil, to mature and produce an abundance of good fruit, good grain to feed the world – and to create more wheat.
Our purpose is to be what God created each of us to be. To be nourished and strengthened by the gracefilled gifts God gives us, to mature and grow strong in our faith as we produce an abundance of fruit for the Commonwealth of God.
With God’s help, we may grow robust enough that the weeds are crowded out.
When we grow impatient with the injustice and outright evil in the world, may we remember our own weeds, and put our Trust in the slow, patient, gracious work of God.