Jesus tells this parable right after he tells the parable of the Sower, which means there is a definite agricultural bent to it. However, if you read the parable of the Sower about how the Sower scatters seed in a free and haphazard way on the ground, and if you then read this parable about not pulling the weeds out of the wheat, you might get the impression that Jesus knows very little to nothing about farming! Yet, when we read this parable, we must understand that the weeds or tares Jesus is talking about are what agricultural historians call “darnel,” which looks just like wheat, especially in its early growth; the problem is that the darnel kills the wheat.
That is important to keep in mind: It is important because, as Jesus shares, when we go to tear out the weeds or tares, we are also capable of tearing out the wheat. It, therefore, present us with a problem, if not two fundamental questions – one is theological, the other ethical.
The theological question is, where did evil come from? Here, we learn from Jesus that “An enemy did this,” that is, an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat; the evil in this world does not come from God and Jesus wants to be clear about that. In fact, the Bible in general is not much interested in the origins of evil. Rather, it is concerned with the redemption of evil. That’s the first question.
The second question, or ethical question, is more developed: the ethical question is, should we pull out the weeds? As we just shared, this is where it gets tricky, and where we might wander about Jesus’ gardening knowledge when he says, “No, don’t pull them out.” Jesus makes this comment for two reasons: 1) there is no way to pull out the weeds without pulling out the wheat too; and 2), there is going to be a harvest, and when the harvest comes, God will sort it all out, the wheat from the weeds, the good from the bad.
Therefore, in this parable, Jesus counsels his disciples to let the wheat and the weeds grow together on the one hand and to wait for God to judge at the harvest on the other. In other words, have patience with the weeds and leave the judgement to God.
How may we confront the weeds in our lives and still allow God to judge and work out God’s ways among us and at the end of the age? How may we love God and our neighbor, even though we consider the neighbor as part of God’s weed patch?
Pastor Andy Kinsey