Through his parable, today, Jesus gives us a precious teaching about who God is. In the parable, a farmer sowed good seeds in his wheat field. But one day, his workers find many weeds. It turns out…the farmer’s enemy sneaked into the field at night and scattered the weeds. So the workers ask the farmer, “Do you want us to go and gather them?” But the farmer replies, “No; for in gathering the weeds, you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matthew 13:29-30).
The parable tells us two characteristics of God, who is the farmer here. On the one hand, God is the God of love who grants us grace no matter who we are. Whether we are weeds or wheat, by grace, God patiently holds judgment until the harvest time, until the Day of the Lord. On the other hand, God is the God of justice who will eventually judge us all at the harvest time. We don’t know when, but for sure, God’s justice will be fulfilled and all will be sorted out someday.
Indeed, the simple parable of Jesus reveals who God is in such an inspiring way. But today, I think the parable also tells us something about us, about how we should live in the way that our God, the God of love and justice, wants us to live.
When I was in college, we had an annual summer activity. The student association organized volunteers to go to rural areas and help famers every summer. I always loved to go there with my friends. We spent over ten days in a remote rural town and helped any farmers who needed more hands. One day, we went to a rice field. Our job was to pluck out weeds among rice. We had done it many times before. And it’s a relatively simple job, because, usually, rice is planted in straight lines, and we could easily find weeds between the lines, even though weeds and rice looked so much alike.
So…did everything go well and smoothly? Not really. There was a problem. That rice field was not rectangular in shape but had some triangular corners. The lines of rice got overlapped in those corners and made a mess. And there we started to get confused. Which one is rice, and which one is weed? I still don’t know how many rice plants we pulled out. And I don’t want to tell you how mad the owner of the field was that day.
In the parable of Jesus today, the farmer and his workers are in a similar situation. They find many weeds in the wheat field. In Jesus’ days, the most common kind of weed that people found in a wheat field was called “tares.” Look at the picture.
They look almost like wheat as they grow. It would be almost impossible to tell which one is wheat and which one is tare by sight. And to make the matters worse, people didn’t sow wheat in straight lines like rice. They just spread the seeds on the field and planted them quite densely. So it was much harder to pluck out only tares.
From the parable and also from my experience, I come to admit one thing that the parable clearly teaches us: human judgment is not reliable. We do not have the ability to discern wheat from weeds. If we make a quick judgment and remove the weeds, we will end up harming the wheat too. Sometimes we think too simply and dualistically: our world is like a field where the rice is planted in straight lines, and everything else in-between is the weed. But in reality, we encounter many corners where rice is enmeshed with the weeds. Sometimes we think that we can at least discern some of the weeds and pull them out. But the world is more complicated like an admixture of wheat and tares where their roots are entangled together. Here, the farmer’s words deeply resonate in our hearts. To the workers who suggest plucking out the weeds, he says, “No.” And he says, “Wait…until the harvest.”
Sisters and brothers in Christ, we sometimes think as if we were qualified to pass moral judgments onto others. Many Christians think as if they were on a higher ground of righteousness and even authorized by God to judge people based on their very limited understanding. We hear: “They are Muslim.” “They are Jewish.” “They are immigrants, undocumented.” “They are black.” “They are white.” “They are Asian.” “They are gay.” “Did you see his bumper sticker, Make America Great Again?” “Stronger Together?” “She drinks.” “He smokes.” We do judge others. We do label them as the weeds. And we don’t want them to stay in the same field of God with us, so we try to pull them out somehow.
But remember, God says, “No.” And God says, “Wait…until the harvest.” Today, our God of love is asking us to slow down and live on God’s patience and forbearance. God allows different people to grow around us. And God wants us to wait and see how things would turn out. Also today, our God of justice is asking us to leave the judgment unto God. Judging is not our job, because we really don’t know who would be wheat and who would be a weed until the time of the harvest. Then, what is the way that our God, the God of love and justice, wants us to live? We may live faithfully in Christ practicing godly patience among others, and leaving the judgment unto the Lord.
To follow this way of life, today, I’d like to suggest one simple practice we can do in our daily lives. Whenever you become judgmental on someone or some groups of people around us, simply pause your mind, stop your thinking, and pray God you leave your judgment unto God. Try to remain in that graceful moment of pause, and listen to God’s voice…“No.” “Wait.” I hope this practice will help us live as the followers of Jesus.
We are all here together in the field of God. Let us keep trying to see each other not with the eyes of judgment, but with the eyes of love and mercy. On our way of doing so, I believe we may be able to cultivate a small kingdom of heaven right here in this world until its complete fulfillment on the Day of the Lord. Amen.