Don't Take Out The Tares!
August 30, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. Today I read to you from a parable that Jesus gave. It is "The Parable Of The Tares." This story is only written in The Gospel According To Matthew. We didn't go into it in today's scripture reading, but in verses thirty-six and following Jesus gives an explanation for this parable.
Hearing It As A Story Of The World
2. The parable itself is quite simple. A certain person sowed good seed into a field. [He] sowed wheat seeds. Then when everyone was asleep, the enemy came and sowed tares, (a poisonous wheat-looking weed). You can't tell the difference between the "bad wheat" and the good wheat unless it grows to some point. About when it reached maturity, the servants noticed the disaster. It's not like the weeds had gotten mixed in by chance. Clearly, an abnormal amount of tares have sprouted up. The servants reported it to the owner. "How did the tares get in?" The master said, "It is the doing of the enemy."
3. A tare is a harmful plant. So, the servants wanted to pull them out as quickly as possible. However, the owner says, "No, when you are gathering up the tares, you may pull out wheat with it. Let them both keep growing together until the harvest! At harvest time, order those doing the harvesting, and tell them, 'First gather the tares, tie them in bundles to be burned, and then gather the wheat and put it into the barns.'," (verses twenty-nine and thirty). This is the story Jesus told.
4. Let's listen to Jesus' explanation next. He says in verse thirty-eight that "The field is the world." And in verse thirty-nine he says, "The enemy who had sowed the tares is the devil." The devil is planting tares in this world. -- Okay, now that he mentioned it, I can see what he meant. As is plain for anyone to see, it is not only things identified as good wheat that are growing in this world. Tares certainly do exist. What's worse, they are growing vigorously.
5. In fact, things that look like the doings of the devil do come about. How can such things go on? How can such things be allowed? Why are such people allowed to go unchecked? Why do the guys doing the bad things grow in power, and the honest feel like idiots? There were also persons in the times of the Old Testament who had these same doubts, for example, the author of Psalm seventy-three has sung it as follows. "Looking at the tranquility of those who go against God, I am jealous of those who are proud. Until they die they do not know suffering, and their bodies also grow fat," (Psalm 73:3-4). And so it seems, that at times, the tares grow better than the good wheat.
6. But the scripture is not just speaking on sown seeds and their growth. It is also speaking in regard to the time of the harvest. Please look at verse thirty-nine. "The harvest is the end of the world," says the scriptures. That means that this world just the way it is will not last forever. The time of the harvest is coming. The hour in which [the world] will come to a conclusion is coming. The tares will be gathered up and burned up in the fire. That is, ultimately, God will judge righteously. God will execute justice. This is plainly the first meaning to the parable that Jesus gave.
Hearing It Especially As A Story Of The Church
7. Yet, it seems to me that we need to hear this parable as being a bit more for us. I say that because the text here says that "The one who sows the good seed is the son of man," (verse thirty-seven). The one called "the son of man" is Christ. It is speaking of Christ's seed-sowing. It says, "The field is the world." However, it is in the world but "the church" in particular is where the seed-planting of Christ is affected. By means of this parable, we must think in particular about "the church." When we do that, then in a blink, it will be a message close to where we are. So, as we think about ourselves here in this church, let's project ourselves into this parable. Okay then, where do you think you go in it?
8. Some may hear the words of Jesus and put themselves in with "the tares." "I go to church, however, as seen by God, I'm probably really a tare. I've been baptized, however, I'm probably a tare. I'm really questioning whether, essentially, there is that big of a difference between me and the bad guys in this world. If that's the case, then even though I'm practicing the church life, ultimately, won't I be gathered up like a tare and burned up in the fire?" -- When we put ourselves in with "the tares" in this way, then this parable becomes very terrifying.
9. On the other hand, some may hear this parable and place themselves in with "the good wheat." If you are putting yourself in with "the good wheat," then things might sound like this. "There are, there are, there certainly are tares! There are even some in this church, you know. That guy over there and this guy here are definitely tares. They are putting on a good appearance in church right now, however, ultimately, definitely, they will be burned up in the fire. You can bank on it." How do you see it? If the church is only people who think like that and put themselves with the good wheat, then it sounds pretty messed up, doesn't it?
10. But yet, it's still good. "Servants" also appear in this parable. [They say,] "So let's go and take them out!" When you put yourself in the place of the servants, then things might have sounded like that. As seen from the servants' perspective, they must take out the tares as quickly as possible because it may bring harm to the good wheat. They can't stay quiet and do nothing. They can't be still. One way or the other they gotta deal with it right away!
11. In this way then, the thoughts, "The tares in the church must not be left unattended. We have to take them out. The church must be a church of only good wheat," have repeatedly appeared in church history. It is not unusual for the church to be saying the same thing as these servants. Therefore, the church has at times ended up driving out anybody who looked like a tare. Or else if they couldn't do that, then they would leave themselves and try to build a pure "church of good wheat."
Hearing It As A Story Of An Eccentric Owner
12. As [we've seen] then, based on where you put yourself in the parable, the people that appear in it will be different. However, regardless of where you put yourself, the main thing is that we are to turn our eyes from there to the "focal point of the parable." The focal point of the parable is neither the good wheat, nor the tares, nor the enemy who sowed the tares, nor the servants who propose "a harvesting out plan for the tares." That's right. the focus of this parable is "the owner." And the owner is one odd person.
13. Whichever way you look at it, it is "the servants" who are the ones with common sense. If the tares go to head, it will be a big mess. Before it gets that way, they must deal with it ahead of time. In regard to harvest time, they must maintain a field of only good wheat. But the owner puts a temporary "halt" on it. He says, "Let them both keep growing together until the harvest!" What is his motive for that? "When you are gathering up the tares, you may pull out wheat with it." -- This is [his] reason. If somebody said something like this in the real world, they would be the laughingstock of the people; because it is reasonable for just a small amount of good wheat to end up being pulled out when you pull out the tares; because the roots are usually tangled up together. But still, ultimately, if the harvest is to be good, you should get it done, right? That's what we call common sense.
14. But this owner, to an abnormal degree, is obsessively particular about each and every single stalk of wheat. In the same way, to an abnormal degree, God cares about "each and every single one" of us. It's not that each being doesn't matter, as if everyone is one and the same. He treats [each one] carefully. Therefore, he waits till the time of the harvest. God is saying he is just like that himself. God is not in a rush to judge. Until the time of the end, he does not require a field of just good wheat, unmixed, pure. With patience, with care, he waits until the time comes. The fact that the scripture speaks on God's judgment at the time of the end, put in other words, also means that God is waiting full of patience until the time of the end. It means that until God says, "It is the end," "It isn't the end."
Hearing It As A Message From Jesus Christ
15. However, if I may say something a bit argumentative, the words of this owner are not salvation to "the tares." They don't save them. The tares are still tares. Not judging till the time of the end, God waits. He waits very patiently. -- I think that's how it goes. But coming from the standpoint of the tares, it would be no more than a postponing of the time when they will be burned up in the fire. If that's the case, there is no essential difference between being judged now or at the end of days. There really isn't. If we are tares, it is hardly likely that we would appreciate the words, "Let them both keep growing together until the harvest!"
16. We must shift our attention to another truth in this text. It is the truth that "Jesus Christ spoke" this parable. The church has been passing this parable down as "a parable that Jesus Christ spoke." This Jesus Christ is the one who was crucified and who died in order to atone for our sins.
17. God certainly does not leave the good wheat and the poisonous tares mixed up as one. He doesn't say, "It doesn't matter at all to me." Ultimately, the good wheat and the tares are differentiated. The owner says, "At harvest time, order those doing the harvesting, and tell them, 'First gather the tares, tie them in bundles to be burned, and then gather the wheat and put it into the barns.'" This, in a certain sense, is a very frightening saying as well.
18. Yet, this parable is one that Jesus Christ himself gave. It is a parable that the savior gave. It is a parable that is being spoken by the savior as the gates to the forgiveness of sin are wide open. The fact that the gates to the forgiveness of sin are wide open, said another way, also means that the poisonous tares that by their very nature ought to be destroyed have the potential to be stored as good wheat into the barns. In agriculture in nature, a tare will always be a tare. It can't turn into good wheat. But, in God's agriculture, a tare can turn into good wheat. It can make a start as good wheat. When there is forgiveness of sins, it also brings the possibility for both repentance and a brand new start. There is no need to remain a tare. There is no need to keep being a tare.
19. What do you say? If the owner called God says, "Take out the tares right now!" according to the proposal of those servants, I certainly would have been taken out and destroyed a long time ago. I would think it would be the same way for you as well. But, God is not that kind of owner. God waits until the end of days. Not concluding [things now], he waits. God wants for people to receive the grace that has been given through Jesus Christ, to enjoy forgiveness of sins, to begin to live as good wheat, and to keep living as good wheat, and even though [a person] may have failed and started over and over again countless times, God wants [everyone] ultimately to be harvested as good wheat. Unto that end, God cares for us with the utmost patience and concern.
20. "Shall we go and pull out the tares?" -- God says, a loud "No!" to that proposal. God is very patient. God is not looking for this type of ministry. Therefore, God is looking for us to care about people always having God's patience and generosity of spirit towards others, not being quick to convict them of sin and end it for them. And indeed, it's not just about others. It just may be that we must show care with patience and generosity towards our own selves. We are not to be quick to judge and say of ourselves, "You're a tare, too. Let's pull you out!" That's because what really matters is not for the tares to be discovered or for the tares to be pulled out. What always matters is that the tare can be changed into good wheat.