Like so many of Jesus’ parables, the story of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) begins with “The kingdom of heaven is like…” What is coming next is a word picture describing some aspect of the kingdom of God. In this parable, the farmer planted wheat (“the good seed”) in his field. At night, his enemy came and sowed weeds. At first, no one realized the sabotage. But as the wheat and the weeds began to grow together, it was obvious something was wrong. The confused workers quizzed the farmer, “Did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?” (Matthew 13:27).
The farmer recognizes this as the work of an enemy. The workers respond with a willingness to immediately yank out the weeds. But the farmer replies, “No, lest while you are gathering up the weeds, you may root up 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 weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’ “ (Matthew 13:29-30).
At the disciples’ request, Jesus gives the interpretation of the parable in Matthew 13:37-43. “And He answered and said, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the weeds are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. Therefore just as the weeds are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.’ “
The point of this parable is that good and evil – the kingdom of God and the kingdom of evil – are growing alongside each other in the present age. God has an arch-enemy. And for reasons I can’t explain but appear in this parable and throughout the New Testament, God has given some level of reign over this world to Satan. “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (I Jn 5:19) is just one of many references to Satan’s current rule in this world.
We don’t like this “growing alongside” and would like to see the Old Testament method for dealing with evil put to use today. The Old Testament model was that God’s blessing for righteousness and punishment for evil were generally immediate, physical, and temporal. Evil enemies and kingdoms were, at times, simply wiped out. This is what the workers had in mind in the parable. “Should we use the Old Testament method and yank out these weeds on sight?” God replied, “Allow both to grow until the judgment at the end of the age.” The banishment of evil and evildoers is coming, but not yet. We would like to see evil destroyed in the here and now.
So when you see evil flourish, when you see the wicked prosper, do not despair. God’s kingdom is growing and at work and will ultimately triumph. This parable is meant to be an encouragement when we are discouraged by the power of evil in the world, including its presence in our own experience and our families and our communities. God has ordained that the two kingdoms not only co-exist but grow alongside each other in the present age. But God’s kingdom will not only triumph in the end, but as we learned from the secret seed and the mustard seed stories, it will continue to grow and blossom and bloom in this age as well.