A few people have written to LAF editors in recent weeks, asking how we’re doing and cautioning us as we carry on promoting a biblical understanding of womanhood, family, sexuality, etc. With abuse and adultery scandals making news in the past few months, many feel offended, disconcerted, confused and uncertain about where they stand or how they should react. We’ve been deceived, and now we wonder to what degree we have been misled? How much of what we believed is a lie? It can be discouraging. A breach of trust is angering. It is disorienting. We start asking, “Is what the world has to offer better than what’s going on in the church these days?” But now is not a time to be reactionary.
Disorientation and misinformation can lead us to the danger of many temptations. There is a temptation to exaggerate the offense, whether we’re involved or not. There is the temptation to gossip. There is the temptation to slander the body of Christ as a whole. There is the temptation for the unbeliever to blaspheme God’s name. There is the temptation to withdraw and protect ourselves from outsiders. There is the temptation to exaggerate claims for attention’s sake. There is even the temptation to damage the reputations of people who had nothing to do with the immediate scandals by painting them with a broad brush to include them in the blame. This all creates emotional upheaval, much turmoil, uncertainty and a great need for direction.
Scripture is, as always, the best Source for clear direction.One place we will find it is in Matthew 13:24-30 in the parable of the wheat and tares, because we are asking the same questions as the servant asked when he found the field of wheat to be filled with weeds. “How did this happen, and what do we do now?”
Now is a good time to examine this passage more closely. It is heavenly wisdom about the very turmoil we’re experiencing, and what could be better than turning to the Word to help us avoid further complicating our lives or hurting others?
This parable is about the present and future state of the Kingdom of heaven, the church. That is us. What we’ll see is not only the devil’s hatred of us but also Christ’s care for us.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, 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. But 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, didst 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. Matthew 13:24-30
First, it is important to remember that when we find tares in the fields, Christ still rules as King.
Second, there is still wheat in the field. Like you, those other “stalks” are heirs to His eternal kingdom.
Third, those who sow good seed are also His heirs. Let’s not forget that. We need to continue to sow good seed and encourage those who do along side us. God has given us not only good ministers but also others in the faith who are diligent about the work of God now. We can be grateful to God for this, because we know that it is only by the work of Christ in our lives and in their lives that this is possible. Whatever good seed there is in this world, it is because of Christ’s planting it. His truths preached, His graces planted, His work of sanctification on the souls of men must continue to be honored. What we have had in the past for our benefit and what we have now and what we will have before us is all owing to Jesus Christ. We must continue on in gratitude for that provision and with that knowledge.
Fourth, those fields which are local to us we know are capable of bringing forth good fruit–and that is why it is devastating when bad fruit comes up from that familiar ground. Every field, whether near or far, is Christ’s because all things are delivered unto Him of the Father. This will help us resist the temptation to strike the whole field down with one broad stroke. Whatever work has been done here by the the devil has been done by his usurpation and unjustly. Our faith resides in the fact that Christ will come and take possession of His fields. When we look to ourselves instead of Christ, we are not only short-sighted but we take the first step toward falling into the temptations mentioned above. It was Christ who sowed the good seed to begin with. It should be an encouragement to us to see good men (the seed mentioned above) taking possession of the fields for the glory of God. We must follow suit.
Fifth, we are surrounded by good men, true saints proven in word and deed. The parable teaches us that the good seed is not only precious to the Savior but scattered and dispersed. Some of us may need to look around for it. Others may need to reach out to those who are alone. In some places they are more numerous; in others thinly dispersed. Don’t forget that you are part of that seed, and many will look to us with an expectation of good fruit, especially now. This is when eyes are on us with more acute focus, looking to see the glory of God in his people. What a shame when, instead of reacting biblically to the tares, we begin to burn the wheat (our brothers and sisters in Christ) wholesale.
Sixth, the exposure of sin in the tares is more readily recognized. While the world continually dulls the mind to the putrid nature of sin, scandals remind us all of the fallen nature of man. It is a testimony to both believer and unbeliever of just what is sin, hypocrisy, and all that is profane and of the devil. The visible contrast of the works of the flesh and the works of God allow for a time when a conviction of sin is more acute and the message of repentance should be fresh on everyone’s minds. The tares remind us of the devastation of sin and of the hurt it does both to the tares and to the good seed. Tares tempt us to follow suit…and some will. Tares persecute us while receiving the same blessings of rain, sunshine, and soil. This is a reminder to us that, in God’s providence, we will be mixed together in this world. As we are about our good works, the tares will be left inexcusable. Yet the wheat should not become haughty and boastful but should fear and tremble, saying, “But for the grace of God….”
Seventh, now is not a time to grow weary, though it can be very tempting, as it seems our load is increased and our joy undermined. The devil is still roaming. He is the sworn enemy of Christ. He wants to commandeer God’s glory. He wants to succeed in destroying any comfort and happiness we have. He will continue to sow tares. He will continue to try to steal the fields, so our laboring must increase. We must promote more godliness, though it is tempting to take our ease. We must do more to prevent future mischief. This means not only taking opportunity to humble ourselves, as it is always fitting to do, but also to make sure our consciences are awake, our reasoning clear, that we are on our guard against sin in ourselves and others and ready to repent with haste of anything that our flesh would cause us to do in error. Now is the time to be especially watchful for hypocrisy in the church.
Eighth, the parable teaches us that the influences of satan come from places which are concealed to us. Trouble arises when hints of sin that seem subtle and easily excusable are present. It is best to find the source right away at the first sign of sin. Sin needs no tending. It will spring up on its own if we are not diligent and watchful for it or doing our due diligence to tend to nurturing good seed.
Ninth, the tares are indistinguishable from the wheat until they produce blades and fruit. This is just the way it is. Many will seem worthy of our respect and trust, but there is a great deal of wickedness in the hearts of mankind which can for a time be obscured from our view. But it is inevitable that it will break forth at last. This should be a comfort to us if we’ve long suffered persecution. It should be a comfort to us, as it fulfills the promise that the Lord will be a faithful husbandman over His fields. It is a comfort to us in that we will no longer go on being deceived and misguided by subtle twists of the truth that often cause us to question or compromise our faith. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God”–and when subtleties twist our understanding, it is a great blessing when tares are revealed and exposed.
Tenth, we must beware of the temptation to question God. It is a knee-jerk reaction to want to throw out the whole field as well as loyalty to the Husbandman. We need to remember that if there are tares, if things are amiss or troublesome, it is not because of Christ. Errors, scandals, the growth of profaneness and apostasy are all a matter of great grief to those who are known of Christ–especially His faithful ministers who labor on our behalf. Keep in mind that it is very sad to them, as it should be to all of us, to see Christ’s gardens filled with weeds and tares. They cast shadows of dishonor on the name of Christ as if His fields are nothing more than the fruit of slothfulness and overgrown with thorns. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The parable testifies to the character of our heavenly Father in how He places the blame squarely. “It is the enemy who has done this.” He doesn’t blame His faithful stewards, and neither should we. They could not help it. They had done what was in their power to plant and tend the good seed. All who are faithful and diligent aren’t judged of Christ in this matter. They should not be reproached or gossiped about or slandered by men. The mixture of good and bad, of hypocrite and sincere in the church will produce bad fruit as well as good. If we are doing our duty and still do not see our hopes realized, it is not our fault.
We need to consult God first before rooting up what we think are tares, resisting the temptation to be inconsiderate and zealous. We can at times like these become just as much of a hazard to the church by ripping out all that we presume to be weeds. Now is not the time to call down fire from heaven or to campaign for witch hunts or to tar similar entities–be they businesses, ministries or what-have-you–with the same broad stroke.
God prevented that from happening in the parable for good reason: “lest we gather up the tares, ye root also the wheat with them.” With man there is too much room for error, and God would rather that no harm come to His good seed. There is much wisdom and grace in Christ, and we have to account for His provision for the good seed we cannot see. Great care and moderation must be observed in inflicting and censuring offenders. The scripture is peaceable, pure, and from above. It reminds us that our duty is to instruct those who oppose with meekness.
This doesn’t mean all Christians are to sit passively back and let the tares continue in open sin, hurting the wheat and blaspheming the name of Christ. Rather, we trust in the Scripture’s guidelines for church discipline (Matthew 18, et al). It’s not a case of “every man for himself” and all believers carrying out witch hunts to deal with sin (which ends up spreading scandal and harming Christ’s name among the lost). We need to allow the local church body to do what it is called to do in dealing with individuals and leaders who sin. Every man will reap what he has sown. Those who sow to the flesh will cry “Lord, Lord” in vain. But for the righteous, this should give us great hope. Our work, our industry, our seed, our skill, will all be manifested. Those who sow precious seed will rejoice (Psa. 126:5,6), and there is joy in the harvest (Isa 9:3).
“And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” ~ Galatians 6:9
(*Adapted from Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 13)
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