The Parable Of The Tares

Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

The sower is Christ Himself. He always sows good seed in His field. When he was living here He went up and down the country, dropping the words of life wherever He found a bit of heart-soil that would receive them. It is wonderful to think of the blessings which have come to the world through the words of Christ. They have changed millions of lives from sinfulness to holiness. They have comforted sorrow. They have guided lives through the world’s perplexed paths. They have been like lamps for the feet of countless hosts.

In this parable, however, Christians themselves are the seeds. “The good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom.” Everyone who has received into his heart the grace of God becomes himself a living seed. Wherever a good seed grows, it springs up into a plant or a tree. Every good life has its unconscious influence, diffusing blessings, making all the life about it sweeter. Then it yields fruit. Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit in the lives of those who receive the Spirit — love, joy, peace, long-suffering. There are also fruits in the activities of the Christian life, in the words one speaks, in the things one does, in the touches of life upon life.

We here come upon the truth of an Evil One who is in the world, an enemy, of Christ, marring or destroying Christ’s work. The Bible does not tell us about the origin of evil, but it everywhere takes for granted that there is a kingdom of evil, at the head of which is the great enemy of God and man. Evil is not dropped accidentally into lives or homes or communities. The bad work is done designedly. “While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went his way.”

People sometimes wish that there was no evil in the world. But, unfortunately, the feet of the Adversary go in every path. He is always watching for opportunities to steal in and do mischievous work while no one is watching. He is represented here as coming by night when good people are asleep. Our hours of greatest peril are those in which we are least conscious of peril. What can we do to protect ourselves in these unsheltered, unwatched times? If a man knows that a thief is coming, he will be on the watch. But the thief does not come then — he comes when he knows that no one is watching. How can we keep ourselves safe from the dangers we know not of? All we can do is to keep our lives ever in the hands of the sleepless Christ.

We are in danger of underestimating the enmity of Satan, and the evil wrought by his sowing. His own distinct purpose is to destroy the work of Christ. Whenever any good seed has been sown in a heart, he comes and tries to get some bad seed in among it. He whispers his evil suggestions in our ears, even while we are reading our Bible, praying, or partaking of the Lord’s Supper. The devil is far more busy among good people than among bad. Those who are wholly given over to sin he can afford to let alone — they are safely his already; but those who are trying to be Christian he seeks to destroy. Young people need to guard against the baleful evil which seeks entrance in vile books and papers, in indecent conversation or unchaste pictures. When an officer in General Grant’s presence was about to tell an obscene story, he glanced about him and said, “There are no ladies present.” The general promptly answered, “But there are gentlemen present.” Nothing that should not be said in the presence of a lady should be said in any presence.

In the early stages of growth the tare or darnel is so much like wheat that the two can scarcely be distinguished. Evil in its first beginnings is so much like good that it is often mistake for it. By and by, however, as they grow, the true character of the tares is revealed. Seeds of evil sown in a heart may not for a while make much show. A child under wrong influences or teachings may for a time seem very innocent and beautiful, but at length the sinful things will show themselves and will shoot up in strength. Many a man falls into ruin at mid-life through bad habits which he began to form when he was a boy. The time for young people to keep their hearts against evil is in the time of their youth.

The farmer’s servants wished to clean out the tares before they had come to ripeness. The farmer said, however: “No, you would do more harm than good if you began to do this. Wait until the harvest, and then we will separate the tares and the wheat.” Good men must live among the evil in this world. Sometimes they grow together in the same home, or in the same group of friends, or are associated in the same business, dwelling in constant communication and association. Even in the apostle family there was one traitor. Besides the impossibility of making a separation, there is a reason why the evil should remain — the hope that they may be influenced by the good and may yet themselves be changed into holiness. Every Christian should be an evangelist, eager in his desire and effort to bring others into the kingdom of God.

In Old Testament days God tolerated many evils like polygamy, divorce, blood revenge, and did not root them out at once because the people were not then ready for such heroic work. We are not to grow lenient and tolerant toward sin, but we are to be wise in our effort in rooting it out. Especially must we be forbearing and patient toward the sinner. If our neighbor has faults, we are not to rush at him with both hands and begin to claw up the tares by the roots. We must be patient with his faults, meanwhile doing all we can by love and by influence to cure him of them. We are never to lower our own standard of morality nor to make compromise with evil; we must be severe with ourselves; but in trying to make the world better, we need much of the wise patience of Christ.

There will be at last a complete separation between the good and the evil. Hypocrites may remain in the Church in this world and may die in its membership and have a royal burial, but they cannot enter heaven. This solemn word should lead all believers in Christ to honest and earnest self-examination. Are we wheat, or are we tares? The same law applies to the good and the evil in our own lives. In the holiest character there are some things not beautiful. In the worst men there are some things that are fair and to be commended. But in the end the separation will be complete and final.

When the disciples had an opportunity of speaking to the Master alone they asked Him what this parable meant. “Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.” That is what we should always do with our difficulties concerning the teaching of Christ and with all perplexities concerning our duty as Christians — we should take them all to the Master himself. Some things may be explained to us at once by careful reading and study of Christ’s teaching. Some things that once were obscure and hard to understand become very plain as we go on; experience reveals them to us. Then the office of the Holy Spirit is to guide us into all truth.

Some people talk about this world as if it belonged to the devil. Indeed, Satan himself said that all the kingdoms of the world were his. It looks sometimes, too, as if this were true. But really this is Christ’s world. After His resurrection Jesus Christ sent His disciple forth into all the world, claiming it, bidding them go everywhere to make disciples of all the nations.

Jesus taught plainly that there is a personal spirit of evil, called the devil. He says here distinctly, “The enemy that sowed them is the devil.” The devil is the enemy of Christ. No sooner had Jesus been baptized than Satan began his assaults upon Him, seeking to overcome Him and destroy Him. Satan is the enemy also of every Christian. He takes the utmost delight in getting his poison into the lives of Christ’s followers. Sometimes people think that they can play with evil safely, but it is always perilous play, and everyone who thus ventures will surely be hurt. One great comfort we have in thinking of Satan as the enemy of souls and our enemy is that Christ overcame him at every point. While Satan is our enemy, strong and alert, he is a vanquished enemy. We cannot ourselves stand against him, but with Christ’s help we can stand. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Rom.8:37).