Preaching Angle: Wheat and Weeds Grow Even in the Church: God’s good creation grows food for all living creatures. God made the Earth, God made all the plants, and God made all the humans and animals to eat the food. But as is typical of our adversary, where good grows, the enemy targets his evil efforts at God’s good work. This means that all the enemy has to do is look for where God is doing good things and attack that place or that people. This is especially true of the church.
Our Westminster forefathers wrote this about the mixture of wheat and weeds in the church. They said “The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will” (WCF 25.5).
One of the ways that the enemy of our souls tries to disrupt our worship of God and our obedience to Him is by influencing the weeds around the wheat to choke them out. The enemy wants to place and strengthen those weeds nearest to the wheat so that the growth of the wheat is stymied and disrupted. However, as our Westminster forefathers encourage us, “there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will.” Again, Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). Though the weak roots and tall stalks of the weeds grow among and even over the wheat of God’s work and people, they will not prevail against the strong power of God. Like Gandalf tells the Balrog, “You cannot pass!”
And here’s a really, really encouraging irony here. You and I were once the weeds among wheat, so to speak. You and I were once children of wrath (Eph 2:3), enemies of God (Rom 5:10). But it’s these children of wrath, enemies, and weeds among wheat, and it’s this God against whom we have sinned who has come to save us, to transform us from weeds into His wheat field. Jesus came not for the healthy but for the sick, in order to make them health (Luke 5:31). It’s these weeds, like we were, whom God is making into His blessed, beautiful, and fruit-bearing wheat plants.
This means that we need to be both kind and cautious regarding those with whom we worship. We need not live in fear. God is our good King who oversees our lives down to the smallest details of our scalp-pattern (Matt 10:30; Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1), so we need not fear. However, we should be discerning, knowing that our enemy “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8), even around the walls of the church.
Preaching Angle: Wheat, Weeds, and Spiritual Warfare: One of the tensions that our passage has is the fact that the Lord choses to allow the weeds to continue to grow among and around the wheat. Couldn’t the Lord find a way to dispose of the weeds while allowing the wheat to grow? I can go to my local home improvement store and buy a “weed and feed”—it kills the weeds and feeds the grass. Why couldn’t the Lord do something like that?
We need to keep something in mind when reading parables: not all details of the parable are to be taken with equal weight (not to mention there was no “weed and feed” in the first century AD). So the fact that the Master of the house chose not to use some other sort of mitigating measure for the weeds may be meaningless.
However, the last verse of the passage gives us one of the main reasons why our Master allows spiritual weeds to grow among spiritual wheat. Jesus says, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt 13:43). This means that one of God’s primary purposes in allowing the weeds to grow among the wheat is that the growth of the weeds stands in hyper contrast to the growth, flowering, and flourishing of the wheat. In one very true and important way, God demonstrates His own glory by permitting the temporary growth of those who reject and hate Him.
Asaph knows this well. In Psalm 73, Asaph is troubled (to say the least) about the fact that the wicked flourish in this life. In fact, it appears to Asaph that the wicked flourish to an even greater degree than do the righteous (Ps 73:4-7, 13).
However, when Asaph runs into the Lord’s presence with his quandary, he finds his answer. The flourishing of the wicked is temporary, and their eternal end is immeasurably worse than the measure of their pleasure on earth (Ps 73:18-20).
This all means that since the Lord has ordained that the wheat and weeds grow around each other, we await the final judgment when the Lord shows that His planting is more pure, holy, and beautiful than the planting of the enemy. We say with all the saints, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20)!
Dustin grew up in Springfield, MO later graduating from Evangel University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, studying Biblical Hebrew and Greek, Theology, and ancient history. He and his wife, Debbie, married in 2009 and have three children: Abigail, Judah, and Ezra. Dustin still rides BMX bikes, listens to hardcore music, loves research and writing, and enjoys helping his family seek and savor King Jesus.
Hell, then, is the trajectory of a soul, living a self-absorbed, self-centered life, going on and on forever.
The Reason for God, Penguin Publishing Group.
Leonardo da Vinci
Even the richest soil, if left uncultivated will produce the rankest weeds.
Thomas a Kempis
For these attacks do not contribute to make us frail but rather show us to be what we are.
Why We are Reluctant to Share the Gospel
Why is it so intimidating to talk about Jesus in contemporary western culture? One obvious reason might lie in the ubiquitous negative portrayals of Christians in mainstream media. Sam Chan makes this point in his book, How to Talk about Jesus: Without being That Guy as he shares a scene from the American version of the show, The Office. On The Office, Angela represents the closed-minded, angry, and judgmental version of a Christian we see so often (quite lazy writing in my opinion) in (at least) American TV and movies. In the scene below, Jim, the affable protagonist asks everyone to share three books they would bring with them if they were stranded on a desert island:
Angela: “The Bible.”
Stanley: “That’s one book. You’ve got two others.”
Angela: “The Purpose Driven Life.”
Jim: “Nice. Third book?”
It’s not hard to see that Christians don’t have a great reputation, especially for some reason in their media portrayals. Most of us would probably argue these are one-dimensional stereotypes (ironic, when you think of Hollywood’s desire to be “nonjudgmental”) but nevertheless, most of us don’t want to look like Angela, which may make us reticent to share the good news when it’s often represented as the opposite on TV.
Stuart Strachan Jr.
Opening Our Eyes to Deception
It’s important, then, to have our eyes open to this deception. How is it that so many modern promises sound true but in the end lead to our deception, or even our destruction? A long, long time ago, the English Puritan Thomas Brooks wrote:
“Now the best way to deliver poor souls from being deluded and destroyed by these messengers of Satan is, to discover them in their colours, that so, being known, poor souls may shun them, and fly from them as from hell itself.”
In other words, the best thing to do is to expose the lies, examine how they work, explore why they’re so compelling, and explain how to overcome them with the truth. We must “discover them in their colours.”
The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for “religious” things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever–the best in the entire county.
When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.” The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, “God doesn’t settle His accounts in October.”