Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot 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 tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
– Matthew 13:24–30
This is the second parable spoken by the Lord in Matthew 13.
Wheat and Tares
This parable is known as the parable of the tares, yet the man, who represents the Lord, was sowing wheat. After the seed was sown, while this men slept, an enemy, who represents Satan, came into the same field and sowed tares.
Wheat is full of nourishment and good for food. In contrast, though tares at first look like wheat, they are bad for food. The Greek word for “tares” indicates a particular kind of tare which some, such as Darby, translate as “darnel.” Most tares just lack nourishment, but darnel is worse. It is poisonous, causing dizziness and confusion. If we eat wheat, we are strengthened. If we eat darnel, we become confused and unclear about things.
Unfortunately, many Christians are served a diet of wheat mixed with darnel. Even those who serve them may not know the difference. This can cause the congregation to become dizzy and take their eyes off Christ to run after other things. In their confusion, they feel that as long as they come to the meetings they are overcomers, when in fact their relationship with the Lord is sorely lacking. Their conscience is bribed so that they are free to live a loose worldly life as long as it contains some religious aspects. This loss of proper judgment comes from the drug of darnel.
The Lord said, “while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat.” These men were the caretakers of the field, charged with protecting it from the invasion of the enemy. Yet they slept and gave opportunity for unhealthy things to come in. Those who bear responsibility in the church must always be alert and watchful. They are to keep watch over the souls of the saints (Heb. 13:17). Sleep is not an option. If dizziness and confusion come in to trouble the saints, the responsible ones are not doing their job.
To be awake is to struggle to always advance in the Lord. To sleep is to get distracted and only maintain our Christian lives. So-called responsible ones who always stay at home and never pay the price to attend conferences or visit others disqualify themselves from bearing responsibility in the church because they are satisfied with things as they are. They are not fighting for their own advancement and so cannot help but sleep. The enemy will never miss an opportunity like this.
Signs of Sleepiness
Sleepy leaders like to tell the saints what to do but rarely get out to do things themselves. They like to take the lead from behind. They do not preach the gospel, so the saints with them do not either. If the Lord does bless the church with new ones, the leaders do not visit them, so the saints stay at home also. There are no home meetings, no initiation, and no spiritual burden. Their time is spent in exactly the same way as their worldly neighbors. Such a church is fertile ground for the tares.
We should each ask ourselves how many hours of the week are we out preaching the gospel? How many hours are we visiting people in their homes or having them in our home? How many hours are we with people in other ways? These are the things that qualify us to bear responsibility in the church.
Signs of Tares
When the responsible ones become sleepy, the enemy comes to sow tares, or darnel, among the wheat. He will sow the tare of a particular television show and soon the whole church is talking about that show. Or he will sow the tare of a good investment and soon the whole church is talking about money. Maybe he will sow the tare of competition among the sisters in preparing food for love feasts, and soon rivalries and jealousy emerge. Eventually the church becomes dizzy and confused, and no one is pursuing Christ. No one cares for the church as the testimony of Christ. Everyone is drugged.
We who are not bearing responsibility in the church must wake up the responsible ones if they are sleeping. We are not rebelling. We are not taking over. We are just awake and see things the sleeping ones do not. If we are passengers in a car and the driver begins to sleep, we cannot just sit back and say nothing because it is not our car. We must wake the driver up! Our lives depend on it! It is the same in the church. If needed, we must warn the leaders to wake up because the tares are coming!
We should never assume that because we are awake today we will not become sleepy tomorrow. The Lord said that it is possible that what we have may be taken away (v. 12). We must continually struggle to maintain a fresh burden, always fighting for the Lord’s interest. This is the way to stay alert.
The Lord’s Care
How good the Lord is! He didn’t throw out the sleepy servants. There was not one word of blame that they didn’t do their job. The servants then volunteered to get rid of the tares. This sound so much like us. First we mess everything up, then in our zeal, we come up with our own plan to fix it. If the Lord had let them do what they wanted, they would have caused even more damage, uprooting the wheat with the tares. Soon there would have been no wheat and no field left.
The Lord cares for everyone. This is shown in the simple word, “No.” Regardless how good our intentions, He does not want us to do anything that will damage His children. He would rather let the wheat grow together with the tares so that all the wheat can reach maturity. He can always deal with the tares later. We may want to do a lot that we think will help, but often the Lord tells us “No.” This is His love and protection, both to us and to the church.
If, when I was young, the Lord had allowed the responsible ones to gather the tares in the church, I would be gone. The Lord allows many things to happen in the church life that we may feel are not so good. But the Lord protects us. He will not allow us to be thrown out. On this point this parable is very touching. He loves each one of us, and promised,
“I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
– John 10:28
The Bible also says,
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 8:38–39
This matches what the master said in this parable: “No…Allow both to grow together until the harvest.” He will not allow any of us to be uprooted and thrown away.
On the one hand the responsible ones in the church cannot afford to sleep. They must be alert to stop the enemy from bringing in the drugging tares. On the other hand, He loves every individual and wants us each to reach maturity. If we try to clean house and rip out the tares, we make everything worse. The Lord says to let His wheat grow even if it has to grow right next to problems. Let the wheat and tares grow together and everything will be made right at the harvest when the tares will be bundled and burned while the wheat will be brought into the Lord’s barn. How we look forward to that day!