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Parable of the Wheat and Tares

by David A. DePra

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. So 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, did

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? But he said

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

them. 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. (Matt. 13:24-30)

     The parable commonly referred to as "The Parable of the Wheat

and the Tares," is both a teaching and a revelation. It is also an

encouragement. It shows that there is nothing going on down here

which has taken God by surprise. He has it all fully under control.

In the end, everything is going to be sorted out.

     This is one of the parables of Jesus which He privately explains

to His disciples:

He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man. The field is the

world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares

are the children of the wicked one. The enemy that sowed them is

the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the

angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire;

so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall send

forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things

that offend, and them which do iniquity. And shall cast them into a

furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then

shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their

Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt. 13:37-43)

     One of the important facts we must understand about this parable

has to do with the "tares." What is a tare? It is NOT weeds. This is

not a parable about a garden with crops and weeds in it. Tares, in

fact, are degenerative wheat. They look the same as wheat looks,

that is, UNTIL the blade or fruit is formed. In addition, tares are

poisonous. They must be separated at harvest time or the

consequences will be serious.

     So what we have is a scenario where God plants a field with the

intention of bringing forth a harvest. But Satan comes in and plants

tares in that same field. These tares look the same as the wheat

looks. The tares act the same. Indeed, you cannot tell the

difference between the wheat and the tares. Not until they both

mature. Then you can tell the difference. Then you can safely

separate the two.

What Are the Wheat and Tares?

     Ok. But now we are ready to ask: What do the tares represent

for US? What is Jesus trying to teach us about the kingdom of God?

What is the application for us today?

     We can begin to find the answer by reading the interpretation of

the parable. Jesus explains it there. Let's start with the "seed." The

good seed, or wheat, says Jesus, are the "children of the kingdom."

The tares, planted by Satan, are the "children of the wicked one."

What do these terms mean?

     Clearly, the wheat is that which is OF God. The tares is that which

is OF the enemy. But Jesus uses the analogy of them being the

"children of" each. Why this analogy?

     It is a mistake to merely classify the children of the kingdom as

Christians, and the children of the wicked one as non-Christians.

Now, certainly there is an application. But we cannot limit this seed

to that application. "Children" are offspring. Therefore, "children of

the kingdom" are the offspring of the kingdom of God -- that is, all

that is produced by the kingdom of God, or OF that kingdom. And

the "children of the wicked one" are the spiritual offspring of that

wicked one -- everything that springs forth from the enemy.

     What this means is that these "children" are MORE than just

people. They include people, but are also everything OF those

two different sources -- the kingdom of God and the wicked one.

Thus, the "children" are people, good and bad teachings, spiritual

conditions, attitudes, faith, and unbelief.

     That the "tares" or "children of the wicked one" include both

things and people is verified in Jesus' interpretation. There, He

says, "and they shall gather out of His kingdom all THINGS which

offend, and THEM which do iniquity."

     So what Jesus is picturing is this: A vast field, representative of

the world. In that field are those things which are OF God and OF

His kingdom. But also in the world are those things which are OF

the enemy. Each of these realms are clearly represented by

PEOPLE. Thus, we have light vs. darkness, Truth vs. error, and

life vs. death. Two realms both planted in one field. And right now,

both are in the process of maturing. A harvest is coming near.


     The wheat is that which God planted. The tares are those things

which the enemy planted. The field is the world. But notice that in

the parable, the field is pictured as belonging to God. It is said to

be as a field which God FIRST planted His wheat. Later, "while

men slept," the enemy comes and plants the tares. The enemy is

pictured as invading God's territory and secretly planting the tares

after the field is established and after the wheat is planted.

     It is unlikely that Jesus is talking about the world as it was before

Adam sinned. It is unlikely that He is saying that the enemy came

into that world and planted tares. It is true that there is a an

application to this. But Jesus is getting at something else here. He

opens the parable by saying, "The kingdom of God can be likened

to......" Thus, the context is one of the kingdom of God. As is the

case with so many of the parables, Jesus is describing how the

kingdom of God works. This is not a history lesson about how went

wrong with God's creation. It is a spiritual picture of how the

kingdom of God works NOW.

     But what IS the kingdom of God? What KIND of kingdom is Jesus

talking about?

     When we hear Jesus say, "The kingdom of heaven is likened

unto.....", we need to remember that the kingdom of heaven is within

US. Jesus said that. He said,

The kingdom of God cometh not in a way that can be examined

with the eyes. Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for,

behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21)

     So what KIND of kingdom is Jesus talking about? The one

which is within US -- within US right now. Thus, these parables are

describing how the kingdom within US functions.

     One of the fundamental keys to understanding the parables of

Jesus is to realize that when He talks about the kingdom of God, He

is NOT primarily talking about the church, heaven, or the millennium.

He is talking about the kingdom within US. The church, heaven,

and the millennium are, at best secondary applications. But God is

most of all talking about the dealing of God with you and I,

personally, in our hearts and lives.

     So when Jesus talks about God planting wheat in His field, He

is not merely talking about God putting people in this world. No.

He is saying that in the kingdom of God -- the kingdom which is

is in US -- God has planted wheat. And that wheat, or Truth, is in

the process of maturing and becoming part of us. But because of

the sin of Adam, the enemy has access to us as well. And he has

planted tares. The parables pictures the condition of any one of

us who is walking with Jesus Christ -- as well as an overall picture

of the world and kingdom in general.

     This parable is actually a picture of how God sets us free by His

Truth. It pictures us as a field in which both Truth and error are

planted. Both look the same to us. We often cannot discern the

difference. And the only way in which God can sort out the wheat

from the tares is by waiting until each comes to maturity. THEN it

is evident what is Truth and what is error. THEN we will be able to

see the Truth and embrace it, as well as reject the error.


     There isn't a Christian alive who hasn't got some tares. Tares

are sin, yes, but really anything which isn't of God. That includes

error, ignorance, attitudes, misconceptions, and blindness. We are

all a spiritual type of this field Jesus is describing.

     Now note: Jesus is picturing a condition where I cannot tell the

difference between the wheat and tares. Have you ever felt that

way? Have you ever felt like you could not tell what was of God,

and what was not of God? According to Jesus, this is not a sign that

you are off the track. It is normal in HIS field.

     This parable is encouraging because it shows us that it does not

matter how confused I am, God is going to sort it all out. In fact, the

parable is a GUARANTEE that we are always going to be in some

condition of uncertainty. There are ALWAYS going to be wheat and

tares growing along side of each other. And we will NOT be able to

know the difference.

     Jesus is here assuring us that complete certainty is a condition

we are NOT going to experience in this age. Instead, there are

going to be both tares and wheat. Often we won't know the

difference. Yet we must still walk by faith. How?

     The walk of faith is NOT based on ME knowing Truth from error.

That may shock some people. But it is a fact. Rather, the walk of

faith is based on the fact that GOD knows Truth from error.

     Read again the parable. God says that He will let the wheat and

the tares both grow to maturity so that the difference can be seen

between the two. But does God need clarification? No! We do.

God lets them grow so that WE can see the difference. God

already knows the beginning from the end in all things.

     In this we see both a promise and an assurance. God is telling

us that He has things under control. We may not yet be able to tell

the difference between the wheat and tares. But He already knows.

And He intends to sort it all out for us. But not by forcing the issue.

He will wait until a certain maturity is there. Then we will be ready to

see it and allow Him to separate the wheat from the tares.

     Does God seem worried about any of this condition? Nope. He

doesn't. It seems that it is all a part of the process in which we live.

     So despite the fact that I don't see, my faith needs to be in the

fact that God does see. Despite the fact that within my heart, mind,

and life, there will be both wheat and tares, this fact need not make it

impossible for me to walk by faith. No. I should walk by faith

regardless -- because I have the confidence and security of

knowing that God is not confused. He knows the wheat from the

tares, and promises to sort them out and preserve the wheat.

     Oh, that we would all see this. Faith does not depend on OUR

ability to discern wheat from tares. It rests upon God's ability. Faith

does not depend on us being certain, or free from confusion. No.

It is a rest upon God -- who is never uncertain or confused. Faith,

in fact, does not rest on anything about us -- not even in our ability

to believe. It rests solely upon God -- apart from ourselves.

     I can be totally uncertain about everything -- including whether

something is a wheat or a tare -- but nevertheless be certain about

God. Nothing takes God by surprise. He is NOT depending on us

to sort out the wheat from the tares before we can walk with Him. No.

He says to take the next step -- not knowing if necessary. Things

are in a process of maturing. All things will eventually be sorted out.

All things will eventually be exposed for what they are.


     Of course, we think it would be much better to jump the gun and

sort out the wheat from the tares at the beginning. Jesus pictures

this in the parable. He has the reapers saying, "Would you have

us go and gather the tares up?" -- in other words, "Would you like

us to root out all of this error?" If we just had the right information,

we think, it would be so much easier. If God would just tell us what

we need to know, that would be the end of the problem.

     But Jesus says, "No. If you root out the tares, you are going to

root out some of the wheat as well. So let both grow until they

come to maturity. Then we will sort them out."

     Now, notice again the point: GOD is not confused as to what

is wheat and what is tares. If He wanted to, He could sort them out

when they are seeds. But He does not. He says to do so would be

destructive to the wheat. He is saying that there are times when to

root out error will harm the purpose of God in the lives of those He

wants to bring on into the Truth.

     This shows us all the more than God is talking about the inner

dynamics of His kingdom in each one of us. Bad teaching and

bad people would be easily removed. But the bad things IN US

which give place to tares -- are the real issues. And they are not so

easily rooted up. They are too deeply rooted in us. God must take

His time working on these, lest He cause us to stumble and fall.

     This should be encouraging. Jesus is telling us in this parable

that even though we wish we could see the Truth on many matters,

that it is nevertheless His wisdom and mercy that we NOT see it.

Not yet. Tares are in the way, and to remove them would harm the

wheat. So for now, God must let both the wheat and tares grow. To

come to a maturity. To run their course. But only for awhile. The

time will come in our lives when they can be separated.

     Often, the only way we can be free of tares is if God allows them

to run their course in us. Then, we will gladly let them go. But

thankfully, there is wheat there along side of them. Once we see

the error, we immediately see the Truth. God does not leave us

without hope.

Why Tares?

     The reason God must allow tares to be planted is the same

reason that God must allow evil in this world. God must allow evil

because He wants good. If evil isn't possible, then good isn't real.

It is, in that case, a forced and mandated condition. Unless the

possibility of evil exists, good is a sham. There would be no free

will, and no such thing as righteous character.

     Likewise, God must allow error because He wants to reveal the

Truth. If error is impossible, then Truth is forced upon us. Faith is

therefore forced. There is no free will and no choice.

ALL evil is good gone bad. ALL error is Truth distorted. Indeed,

if Truth is absolute, and real, then it MUST be possible to distort it.

     Just try, for a moment, to imagine any Truth which CANNOT be

distorted, lied about, or twisted. You can't. Free will demands it.

If something is the absolute Truth, and there is free will, then it must

be possible to distort it.

     For example, if I say, "Water is wet," I am stating a Truth. But the

fact that I have stated a Truth automatically means that distortions

of that statement are possible. I can now say, "Water is not wet," or

"Water is sometimes wet," or "Water is what you want it to be." All

of these distortions are only possible because there is a Truth.

     So what we see is that all Truth can be distorted or lied about. In

fact, the existence of error is, in fact, fully dependent upon the

existence of Truth.  Otherwise, error -- by definition -- could not exist.

Error gets it's definition by virtue of the fact that it is a distortion OF a


     Thus, God allows error to distort Truth because to do so is

fundamental to free will and to the nature of His creation. And the

fact is, error does not exist in a vacuum. The enemy sows error IN

PEOPLE.  PEOPLE teach error.  PEOPLE live error.  PEOPLE

practice error. The same thing goes for the Truth. The kingdom of

God -- or the kingdom of the enemy -- is in people. And it is in

people that the wheat and tares must be separated.

There MUST be Heresies

     One of the strangest scriptures in the Bible is found in I Cor. 11.

There Paul writes:

For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are

approved may be made manifest among you. (I Cor. 11:19)

     This verse almost sounds like the parable of Jesus. There

MUST be heresies? That they which are approved might be made

made manifest? Why? Why MUST there be heresies so that they

which are "approved" might be made manifest?

     The word translated "approved" here, means "to show as

genuine." It is a word which was often used of the testing and

purification of metals. It carries a positive connotation, in the sense

that metals were "proved" for the purpose of showing them able

to be used, and to show them as valuable. So when Pauls talks

about "they which are approved," he is talking about people who

are shown to be genuine and true.

     The somewhat puzzling issue here, however, is that there must

be heresies so that genuine Christians might be made manifest.

How do heresies figure into this?

     Let's think about this from a practical standpoint. If a heresy

comes into a body of believers, it always does so disguised as

Truth. No one ever says, "I will now embrace error and heresy."

No. Heresy IS error, but it deceives because it is able to be

passed off as the Truth. And there are always going to be people

who fall for it.

     The question here is: WHY do people believe heresy? Why

do Christian people so easily fall prey to some of the most

ridiculous and non-Biblical teachings?

     There are always REASONS why people believe and embrace

what they do. There has to be something IN people which results

in them passing from NOT believing something TO believing it.

Even if I embrace heresy in total ignorance of the fact that it is error,

and that it can harm me, there is a reason why I have opened my

heart to it, rather than reject it. What is that reason?

The reason is APPEAL. There is something about the heresy

which appeals to me. Otherwise, why is it even "on the table?" Why

am I considering it?

     Now, let's be clear about this matter of "appeal." It isn't that the

heresy has to "appeal" to me only in a positive sense. There can

also be a negative kind of appeal. For example, let's take the issue

of tithing. Despite the fact that tithing is NOT a New Covenant

command, many Christians believe it is. They read the same Bible

as do Christians who have seen tithing is no longer commanded as

it was in the Old Testament. But they insist they must tithe. Why?

     Because there is an "appeal" to believing that. There is something

already IN THEM which motives them to more easily embrace that

teaching. For some who believe they must tithe, they do it for the

supposed blessing they think they will receive. That is a positive

appeal. But then there are others. They tithe to AVOID a supposed

financial curse. The appeal in their case is negative.

     Notice how this appeal has little to do with whether tithing is the

Truth. Rather, it has to do with what appeals to ME. And incredibly,

this is exactly what the Greek word for "heresy" means. The word

is "haireomai," and means "to choose." It means "an opinion"

which is based on personal preference. In other words, a heresy

is something I choose, which I originate. It is based on ME, not on

Truth.  And obviously, I am not going to choose a particular heresy

unless something is motivating me to do so -- either positively or

negatively. Again we see APPEAL.

     Now note: ALL of this can be done in complete ignorance. In

fact, it always IS. If we are embracing heresy -- and know what we

are doing -- then we are not deceived. So we aren't even in the

category of I Cor. 11:19. To deliberately walk in error means I am

not even a Christian to begin with.

     But how does all of this tie into "those which are genuine being

made manifest?" Well, God has promised to lead us into all Truth.

ALL of us are born without a knowledge of God. And God is always

trying to open our eyes and set us free with the Truth about Himself.

As He does, we will have to UNlearn the errors, and to embrace the

Truth. This entails a choice. A necessary choice. And if we make

the right one, to embrace the Truth, and to discard the error, we

are, at that point, being "approved" or made "genuine." We are

being purified from the corruption of error, and being made genuine

by the power of the Truth.

     Thus, the heresies are used of God to press us to seek the Truth.

As we reject error, we are really surrendering those places in

ourselves which the error might appeal to. We are being made

more genuine and real.

     Remember that we cannot do this at first, because we cannot

tell the difference between error and Truth. But later we can. This

shows that WE have a choice in this matter. Otherwise God would

not need to wait until that which is planted matures. But He does

wait. He wants us to voluntarily bundle up all the tares and throw

them into the fire. That choice makes us genuine and proved.

     Jesus' parable says the same thing. Note His conclusion to the

parable. What happens once the tares are bundled up and thrown

into the fire? Jesus says, "THEN shall the righteous shine forth as

the sun in the kingdom of the Father." Sure. That which tarnished

is now removed. Error is gone. The righteous can then shine.

In the Church

     God allows heresy in the church so that we might face issues

in ourselves which we would otherwise not know to face. When I

am faced with error -- whether it be that which I already believe or

not -- it is an occasion for me to turn to God. I must, at that point,

seek the Truth. And if I do, I will have to allow God to adjust me to

the Truth.

     The church passed through this as a Body early on. By the

end of the first century, heresy had begun to invade. This meant

that those Truths which Christians believed had to be re-examined

and refined. They were even written down in doctrinal form.

     There is nothing that will make us more certain of what we

believe than an attack on that belief. This forces us to dig in and

be more sure. And doing so will expose any error. This is exactly

the point at which the wheat and tares are separated.

     For example, let's go back to tithing. If I am faced with the issue

of tithing, and really want to know the Truth about it, I am going to

have to seek God through prayer and study. If I continue in that,

not only will God show me the Truth about tithing, but He will also

show me the Truth about HIMSELF. And just as importantly, He

will show me the Truth about MYSELF. In the end, I will be able to

embrace the Truth because God has made a home for it in my

heart. NONE of this, however, would happen, if I did not have to

face the issue of tithing. Thus, this error of tithing is something

which God used to put me through a process of purification and

of becoming genuine.

     This is how God uses heresy. It is why there MUST be heresies.

Error is a wake up call which pushes us to the Truth. Heresy is an

attack by the enemy which is a call to arms for us to rise up and

seek the Truth with all of our hearts.

     Those who are "approved" or "genuine" will do this. We will

seek God. And what we will get out of it will not merely be a correct

Biblical doctrine -- although that will be included.  What we will get

if we seek God IS God. And THAT is freedom. It is a freedom

which has to do with who and what we are -- because it is a freedom

which comes from a relationship.

     Note that heresy is not approved of God. No. But heresy IS. So

God uses heresy to make US approved and genuine. Our God is

evermore redemptive. He makes even the wrath of the enemy to

praise Him.

God is the Truth

     If Truth and error were merely matters of the intellect, or of

knowing the facts, there would be no real consequences for

embracing either. But the intellect is only a small part of embracing

Truth or error. When all is said and done, both Truth and error are

MORAL and SPIRITUAL issues. Why? Because they strike at

the heart and core of the relationship between God and man.

     Jesus said, "I AM the Truth." What this means is that all Truth

is revelation and light and reality about God Himself. Or, to put it

in more simple terms: Truth is God as He really is. And that makes

error a lie about God.

     If God is God, then whatever is true IS true because He is who

He is. If this seems confusing, think of it in this way: How could

there be Truth outside of, or independent of, God? If there were,

then He didn't create everything, and doesn't control everything.

It would mean that there is God, but then there is this "other" realm

along side of Him, with which He has nothing to do. Which He did

not create. In effect, you would almost have to have more than one

God if you think there can be Truth outside of THE God.

     Truth is Truth because God is God. All Truth is of Him, about

Him, and an extension of Him. Truth was personified in Jesus Christ.

And God wants us to grow in the knowledge of Truth.

     Note that Truth is not "doctrine." Doctrine can state Truth. But

Truth is God Himself as revealed IN man -- not merely doctrinal

statements to that effect. Thus, to embrace Truth means I allow

myself to be adjusted to it. I surrender to it. I become set free by

it. Again, moral and spiritual issues. Not merely intellectual.

     There is a principle in this universe that has to do with the Truth of

God. That principle is this: We will either allow God to adjust us to

the Truth, or we will adjust the Truth to fit us. The former spells

freedom. The latter spells deception and bondage. To embrace

the Truth means to embrace God. To reject the Truth in favor of

error, is the outcome of rebellion against God in favor of my will.

     God allows Truth and error to exist side by side because it gives

us the choice between right and wrong, good and evil, and who it is

that we intend to serve. As long as good and evil exist as

possibilities -- and that will be forever -- there must also exist Truth

and error. For Truth and error are nothing more than extensions

of good and evil. And we must choose. God will not force us.

     There MUST be heresies because we must have choices. We

must have the choice to refuse the wrong and the error, in favor of

the Truth. Otherwise we are robots.

God Will Prevail

     Jesus is promising in His parable that no matter how confusing

things might seem, that He has it all under control. The day will

come when the wheat is separated from the tares, and only the

wheat will remain.

     He is certainly talking about this age in general, but the principle

applies to each one of us. God is, right now, in the process of

dealing with wheat and tares in each one of us. He is letting both

mature, so that "we will know them by their fruits." He is evermore

wise. He is leading us into all Truth.

     Many times in our lives, God must allow things to run their course,

so that we might see the Truth about them. In our haste and desire

to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty, we would like to get rid of the

tares early on. But God says to us, "If I remove the tares while they

still look like the wheat, you will never learn the difference between

the wheat and tares. Wrong and right, Truth and error, will, to you,

all look alike. We must wait until YOU can see the difference."

     There is, of course, always the possibility that we will NOT, even

then, by faith in God, bundle up the tares and toss them in the fire.

We DO have a choice. And the sobering Truth is, when all is said

and done, we are either going to hold onto the tares or hold onto

the wheat. We cannot hold onto both.

     Lest we take this lightly, we need to read the parable again.

God took away the tares. They were removed. Only the wheat

remained. And all of this happens when we are fully able to see

the difference. When we are able to make a choice.

     This is not a matter of being mistaken or ignorance. No. At this

point, we SEE. We KNOW. Thus, to hold onto tares is to hold onto

myself. It is to reject the Truth in favor of my pet theory, because it

does for me something I prefer over God. It has at it's basis, some

place where I have refused God access.

     God has better things for us. This parable is one of comfort.

It tells us that uncertainly is part of the NORMAL condition of one

who is walking with God. It tells us that to not be able to presently

know what is of God, or not of God -- even in our own lives -- is not

necessarily a sign that something is wrong. No. It may be a sign

that we are growing. The day is getting near when a harvest will

take place, and we will see God in a new way.

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