Wheat, Tares and Not Judging

Everybody knows Jesus’s parable of the wheat and the tares. A farmer has a field with wheat but at night the enemy comes and sows toxic weeds in the field. Instead of trying to tear up the tares right away, the farmer tells his workers to wait until the field is ripe to separate the weeds from the food. The standard interpretation of this parable is that it refers to the last judgement, which is true. But there is a deeper meaning. This is a parable about not casting judgement on the people.

To understand Jesus’s parables, you have to understand who he is talking to. Most of the time he is talking in public with Pharisees present. In that situation it seems weird that he would just teach a lesson about how God is going to judge everybody in the end. This is something the Pharisees already believed in and were practicing. But what is the Pharisees sin? Applying their doctrine too dogmatically and casting judgement on otherwise good people.

Let’s look at the parable. When the farmer notices that there are tares in his field, the workers immediately want to start tearing it up. But the farmer is wise, and says this instead:

Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.

The concern is that if the workers start deciding which plants are useless and burning them, they will accidentally hurt otherwise good plants that are damaged by the human failings of the workers. Apply this to religious life.

What Jesus is teaching us is that we need to resist casting last judgement on the people around us in the church. When we begin making our own rules to distinguish who is sinful and who is not, we inevitably will catch good people in our criteria. We can hurt good people who are trying to do their best, simply because it is impossible for our human minds to correctly judge if a person is sinful or not. If we try to cast final judgement on the field, we run the risk of irreparably damaging good members by our actions.

Jesus is telling us that judgement ultimately rests with God. He will be able to know who is wheat and who is tares, and will be able to separate them with divine wisdom. It is not our place to cast that judgement. When we do, we hurt the church more than if we just stayed quiet and accepted people, whether we thought they were tares. In the last days everything will be sorted out with divine wisdom. That is what the Pharisees did not understand and what Jesus is trying to teach us.

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