What’s your point of view on this difficult passage for Sunday?

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘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.’” Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”
The scripture passage for Sunday is from the lectionary. It is comprised of a simple parable, the wheat and the weeds. They grow side by side. Should the weeds be pulled? No, leave them as they are. The reapers will deal with it at the harvest and discern then what should be kept and what should be left.

Then, after some verses, Jesus offers an explanation of this parable. This explanation is uncharacteristic of Jesus and therefore scholars agree these are words placed into the mouth of Jesus by later scribes. He says the wheat is God’s chosen people and the weeds are those who are evil. The reapers are angels and the harvest is the end of time. The good will be gathered to God and the evil will go into eternal fire.

A world divided into good people and bad people is not the realm of God. Why do we have this interpretation? Is it helpful in any way? What do we make of the Bible and its most difficult passages?

Consider alternate interpretations of this parable. Maybe the wheat and weeds are in each of us, the mix of good and bad that make up every human. Maybe the wheat and weeds are not yet easy to tell apart; as someone said to me a weed is just a flower growing in the wrong place. Maybe the wheat and weeds are representative of the mix of our human condition of suffering and divine presence and we should trust God to lovingly make sense of it all in God’s own time.

Are there other ways this parable might find helpful meaning for our lives?

Jeffrey Sartain
Executive Minister

About PlymouthSpirit

Plymouth Congregational Church is a progressive faith community grounded in the Christian tradition. We are spiritual, loving, relevant and transforming.
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4 Responses to What’s your point of view on this difficult passage for Sunday?

  1. We might interpert this to have application when we fret that we were angry, selfish or rude .We might even have commited an act that another person would consider as bad or ‘evil’. Thank goodness we don’t have to fear the vengence of God when we make mistakes. Often we discover that wrong doing has it’s own built in punishment, i.e. guilt, another’s revenge, or loss of credibility.

    I believe that a person who tries to live life being true to values such as kindess, concern for others, generousity, responsibility, reliability and respect for others can enjoy a sense of integrity and may be seen as a trustworthy individual and possibly a valued community participant.

  2. Hazel Lutz says:

    1. If we are symbolized by the plants in the field, then this parable can be intepreted to say to us that we should each pay attention to our own growth, to see that we develop into wheat, not weeds, and leave hat we take to be weeds alone and let them pay attention to their own growth.

    2. I really don’t have much use for things like this in the Bible, in so far as direct application to solving the probls in my own life. With the help of scholars of the Bible and history, and as an anthropologist, I do understand this parable to be an insertion by a Biblical writer caught up in the millenarian project of early Christianity. It is an extension of the millenarian movement of Jesus and his followers and fellow preschers of his time. It foretells a time of total justice to give hope to, and encourage, people struggling with the injustices of their own time. While I do not participate in milennarian beliefs of a pure justice to eventually come, my hopes for and efforts towards an envisioned perfect justice do organize and energize my life, and thus in this sense my life is in tune with the overall all perspective of Christian millenarianism in this parable.

    I expect that the millenarian parts of the Bible are enthusiatically embraced by Christians who are facing grave injustices in their daily lives. My life is comparatively easy, and in fact it’s ease is in part built upon the injustices perpetratd against other people, in th past and in the present. As such, if I am listening closely, this part of the Bible is a challenge to me to stop being a weed. Oh dear! Th hard part is that I can feel like I am being wheat in my own well-watd patch of the world, but when I look outside the US, I feel like I am living in a patch of weeds in the world garden—that I am a weed. The challenge is how to be wheat in a weed patch.

  3. Alan D. Hughes says:

    I would suggest that there are two verses that make sense of this parable. The first verse is Matthew 13:39 as follows:

    Matthew 13:39 “the harvest is the end of the age,”

    Unless I missed the memo, “the end of the age” has not arrived.

    Colloquially speaking, “Church ain’t out till the fat lady sings.”

    Here is what Mary Oliver has to say about Praying in her collection of poems called Thirst:


    It doesn’t have to be
    the blue iris, it could be
    weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
    small stones; just
    pay attention, then patch

    a few words together and don’t try
    to make them elaborate, this isn’t
    a contest but the doorway

    into thanks, and a silence in which
    another voice may speak.

    ~ Mary Oliver ~ (Thirst)

    This leads to the second verse: Matthew 13:43 “Let anyone with ears listen!”

    It seems to me that Mary Oliver is suggesting that when it comes to the “end days” we should be listening for the “fat lady” although she might not have put it that way.

    Maybe we should do what Maya Angelou (4/4/1928 – 5/28/2014) suggested in her last tweet – 23 May 2014:

    Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.

    In any event, it is my view that anyone who is reading this still has time to get their affairs in order for the next stage.


    Alan D. Hughes

    • Alan D. Hughes says:

      What does that mean?: “To get your affairs in order.”

      Matthew 6:10 “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

      I guess that is pretty straight forward or is it?

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