An Enemy Has Done This
Robert Wurtz II
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? (Matthew 13:24-28 KJV)
One main point
A parable is a short story meant as an allegory to teach truth. It will usually have just one main point that the teacher is conveying. He/she sketches a setting, describes an action, and shows the results. The story is told in such a way as to leave out actual people or places so as to remove from the hearer any personal interest so they can make an objective judgment of the case. Obviously there are limits on how far we can pull concepts from a parable. This particular one in Matthew 13:24-28 contains many truths that have been the subject of whole scholarly works and books.
We will need to spend some time unpacking these verses if we are to understand the seriousness of this story. Notice the theme of this parable is the great harvest of mankind that will take place at the end of the age in which the true saints of God will be separated from the imposters. The means by which this harvest will come to fruition is a process of planting and growing ‘seed’. It is very straightforward. Common sense will tell us that planting a field for food in ancient times was a life or death situation. If something goes wrong with the harvest the people will not eat. Jesus used this analogy because it had a direct bearing on the lives of the hearers. This is God’s estimate of the importance of this harvest relayed in language the people could relate to. In the first century there were no supermarkets as we know them today. No harvest- no food. It was that simple. So in order to feel the gravity of this parable we have to deliberately transport ourselves back into the context of the hearers.
Understand first, that a field had been plowed and there was good seed sown. This took tremendous physical labor. This seed will produce good, edible fruit. However, in our parable- then appeared the ‘tares’ also. Tares (darnel) comes from the Greek word zizania and it refers to what is known in modern times as Lolium temulentum. This is a weed that resembles wheat, but is potentially harmful or fatal. The word temulentus is Latin and means drunk. In ancient times feuding families or enemies would wait until their subjects ground was plowed and would sow darnel into their field to cause a destructive infestation. When it was harvested it would contaminate the good wheat rendering whole fields a total loss. Darnel, in this sense, was a weapon of war. Separating the darnel from the wheat at harvest was a painstaking, if not impossible task.
Uprooting the darnel during the growth cycle of the field was almost impossible after a period of time because the roots intertwined with the good wheat. The hearers of this parable would know all-too-well the challenges of dealing with this type of agricultural sabotage. So serious was this crime that the Romans outlawed the practice of planting poisonous plants in another persons’ field.
But While Men Slept
Knowing that sabotaging a farmer’s field was morally egregious and against the law, the crime would be committed “while men slept.” This is an important detail that we must not overlook. Bear in mind also that this parable is a metaphor for “true saints” and “false saints.” The false wheat was sown into the field while men slept; this implies a lack of vigilance. In times of war food supplies have to be guarded. In Judges chapter 15 Samson tied twigs to foxes, set the twigs a fire, and turned them loose in the enemies field. That act of war provoked tremendous wrath. Why? That was their food supply set ablaze! Where were the guardians of the wheat field? They slept. And while they slept the false wheat was planted into the field; that is, false brethren were sown into the churches of God.
Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
This seemed like the logical thing to do; the problem was that the roots of the infestation were already entangled in the wheat. Jesus answered, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. This is important. The picture here is of relationships. The good wheat were in relationship with the false wheat. This made it impossible to deal with the false wheat without destroying or offending the true wheat. This allows the false wheat to grow up together in the churches of God assuming seats of authority and influence. In our times false wheat can make it all the way to top of religious organizations and the highest rated Christian television programs. Think of the implications of that.
Known by Their Fruits
For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. (Luke 6:43, 44)
This is so straightforward it is almost insulting. Of course people know the difference between good and corrupt fruit! Right? Not so fast. Relationships have a way of blinding a person. Is that not the old adage, “love is blind.” Anyone can spot corrupt fruit in their enemy or a stranger, but what about those closest to them? Are friends and loved ones viewed through the eyes of reality or are excuses made?
It is easy to get weary in modern times as it seems that standards are dropping on every front. In olden times some Christians were absolutely committed to making sure that in the churches the darnel (goats) were kept out. However, disbarring people from fellowship on the basis that they appear to be tares is not broadly permitted. It is not a matter of if they are to be dealt with, but when. With God’s permission and insistencen the tares (darnel) are allowed tp grow alongside the wheat until the harvest. It is too dangerous to pull them now – as the risks are too many. Only God has the discernment and prerogative in such things. Understanding these important facts makes sense of our Lord’s strategy in dealing with the unconverted within the churches. What was that strategy?
Bind Them in Bundles and Burn Them
So Jesus answered again, Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matthew 13:30) This statement made by our Lord is a fearful one. Know that the false wheat have drank in the rain that came often upon it, just as the good wheat. Nevertheless, rather than bringing forth a fruit that was useful, it brought forth after “darnel.” It could do no other. Why? For every tree is known by his own fruit. God has already determined that plants will produce after their own kind. An apple tree cannot produce walnuts. To change the fruit you must change the root.
A Man Which Sowed Good Seed in His Field
To understand our last question we need to return back for a moment to the beginning of the parable. It is obvious that we are speaking metaphorically about the kingdom of heaven. There are two sowers if you will, a man that sowed good seed, and an enemy sowing bad seed. The first sower is none other than God Himself. The second sower is said to be His enemy (Matthew 13:25). Clearly there are those planted of God and those planted of the Devil (Satan). The one is sown in the light of the day and the other is sown under the darkness of night. This is very important.
Seed sown at night
While the men slept the false wheat was sown in the field. This aspect of the parable speaks greatly to our times. Paul speaks along a similar line in 1 Thessalonians 5:7, For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. This is interesting because you will recall that darnel is Lolium temulentum and the word temulentus is Latin and means drunk. You will know also that Paul tells us, And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18 KJV). The Greek word translated as ‘excess’ is asotia. Soteriology is the study of salvation and comes from the same root as asotia, except the ‘a’ is a negative participle. The word means literally ‘unsaved’ or ‘unsafe’. This may seem like a bunch of large shady exegetical steps, but the reality is these darnel are not saved and are moving in a sort of drunkenness as do all that are lost in sin. The problem is that they are often completely convinced that they are saved and are almost unchallengeable as a result.
The risk of pulling up the darnel is that even the wheat would be lost. Infestations in sabotaged fields made it impossible to take any steps until harvest. This does not mean that the owner of the field was ‘ok’ with the darnel. He was not. He could see how they were corrupting His field, but He had an eye on his future remedy. The reapers are the angels and the angels know those that are His. The job of separation will not be nearly as difficult for them as it would be for a man to separate a field of darnel and wheat.
A Look Back
We need to go back a moment and ask why the men desired to pull the darnel up in the first place? Because though they were growing together they were not harmless. The men knew in time the darnel would become a problem. In the churches of God the darnel have a whole different desire than the true wheat. They are constantly interjecting ideas into the churches after their Adamic nature. They can’t relate to why the true wheat want a Bible based church or a true move of the Spirit. They move in the realm of counterfeit and compromise as a matter of course. They are instinctively carnal. Amazingly, our Lord looks past the present danger to the ultimate reality that they will be bound and burned. This is a metaphor for everlasting fire. But what about now? What are the consequences of having tares in the Temple of God as it were? Obviously they produce after their kind. They are what they are and can be no other until they respond to God in genuine salvation and are transformed into a new creation by the Holy Spirit.