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 tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:24-30)

            How then does it have tares? The master’s slaves were troubled to find tares in their master’s field. They knew this field had been sown with good seed. This parable has been traditionally used to depict the ultimate separation of sheep from goats with the field being the earth. No doubt this day shall come but…

I see another interpretation of The Tares Among the Wheat, with the field being the heart of man. The previous Parable of the Seed and Soil Types was definitely about the human heart. The space of our hearts is unique in that it requires our consent for seed to grow and bear fruit. What does this consent look like? It will likely entail a process where we too will ask, how then does my heart have tares?

How did my heart get so messed up? I believe this parable sheds light on our troubling question. Let’s break it down. Jesus tells us the tare-seed was sown by an enemy while the man slept. Why? We presume it was to bring destruction to the Master’s kingdom intentions for man’s heart.

The reactions of the slaves and their master are worth noting. The presence of tares is scandalous to the slaves so they propose a radical idea—yank those weeds out immediately and return the field to purity. The master? He is neither surprised nor threatened by the tares. He is patient, willing to permit them to grow side by side as if His ultimate harvest will be unaffected by them. Even though they are sharing sun, soil, and water with the intended crop, the Master is not devastated by the presence of tares.

What is our application then? Are we to go soft on sin, allowing it to spread because of our passivity? We know better. We need to adopt our Master’s heart, refusing to panic when tares seem to threaten the landscape. When we find ourselves in this place we should avoid hasty scorched-earth reactions. The master knows that focusing directly on our tares is counterproductive.

When we see tares trying to overtake our hearts, we need to understand the enemy’s tactics. He knows sin is crouching at the door of the heart, appealing for our consent. Our reaction here at this threshold is crucial. Our response to tares requires that we live out of a new place. My friend Gene Griffin and I were recently discussing this. He had this to share about this new place…

 We must live out of our new identity—the new reality that Christ is our life. Jesus is not just the hope of our life or the purpose of our life. He is not just the aim of our life or the giver of life. All of these are true, but they are true like a younger, weaker brothers might share a house with a stronger, older brother. Christ is to be our life, not just the giver of life, the hope, the purpose, or the desire of our life. He is not just our protector should we get around to needing Him. And He certainly is not just our co-pilot, taking the controls only when we concede them. We must not link the life-long process of being renewed in the spirit of our minds with the idea of becoming more of a son of God as we mature. We will never be more of a son of God than we were the day we were born again by His spirit. This reality of the Gospel has been largely ignored. We have been more comfortable (as sinners saved by grace), focusing on Jesus who has saved us from our sin than we have been as sons who have discovered Him as our life—that new place from which we must live.

Gene’s point? Being a son and a saint is a superior reality to being a sinner saved by grace. Our identity is now in Christ. Trying to live as faithful servants from convictions about subservient truths will prevent us from becoming sons who have been liberated by the Person who is The Truth. Has it ever occurred to us that the enemy uses good to obscure the best?

While today’s parable reveals that tares were sown while we slept, yesterday’s parable fills out the picture of what is happening as we sleep. The man who casts seed on the soil “goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows-how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Yes, in Adam we are fallen. “Conceived in iniquity” is how we entered this world, but—news flash–we are no longer in Adam, no matter how much it may feel like it, no matter how much behavior seems to confirm it. We who have been born anew of the Spirit are in Christ. Once the Spirit affirms our identities in Christ, we are able to lay our heads down at night without fear that tares will overtake us. In our new identities we can entrust the seed to the soil, knowing “the soil produces crops by itself (while we sleep); first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.” We are never going to fully grasp this mystery. Nevertheless, we are going to have to entrust ourselves to it.

The seed will sprout and grow but we will not know. (Mark 4:27)

Father, awaken us to the weaker truths sown while we slept. Strip us of half-truths and lies! May these seeds and the tares, which they have produced, be removed in Your timing and by Your means. Help us to have Your patience with our hearts even when they seem to be overrun by tares. Amen.

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