Proper 11, Year A, RCL, Track 1, Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23,Romans 8:12-25,Matthew 13:24-30,36-43
Have you ever noticed that some weeds look almost exactly like the plant you are trying to grow? As a kid I planted corn. And as it started to sprout there seemed to be more plants coming up than I planted. As they grew there was a slight difference between some of the plants but it was very hard to tell them apart and I really didn’t know which plants were the corn and which were the weeds. As the plant started to mature it became more evident as to which was which.
Our parable tells of a similar situation in which someone’s enemy sowed weed seed in a field that was planted with wheat. Until modern herbicides, there was a common weed that grew alongside wheat and it looks almost exactly like wheat. (As you can see in the image above) By the time the farmer could tell the difference between the weed and the wheat it was too late to pull the weeds without damaging the wheat crop.
Likewise, there are many kinds of people in our lives. Some we like some we don’t. Some we want to get to know better and others we avoid or just ignore. We make judgments about people all the time usually based on a sense of class or wealth. Even among our friends, we make judgments based on a myriad of factors. One of the points of this parable is that we are not to judge each other. We do not have the ability to tell the weeds from the wheat. I suppose as we get to know another person on a deeper level and our relationship with the person through Christ matures, we get an idea whether the other person is a weed or wheat. This is a false pretense. God is the only judge over who is good or bad. God is the only one who can separate us into these different categories. Even if we have made this judgment, this parable says we are not to disregard the other person. We are to live together, shoulder to shoulder, with our roots entangled in the same soil, until harvest time.
Christ is the planter and householder, in this case. The Christians are the workers. The good seed is the word of God, just like last week’s story. The wheat is the people who received the word of God. And again like last week story, Christians can have a dual role, both as the fruitful plant and the worker.
This idea of Christians as being both the fruitful plant and the one who works in the field must be important, for it is a common theme in the gospels. Equally important is that we are to love and respect everyone we meet, even if we think they are a weed. As you have heard me say many times, God loves all that he made and he made all people.
As we see throughout history, on just about every continent, there is a repeating theme in which one group, often religious, becomes the judge and harvesters of the weeds, another group. By some estimates, genocide is actively taking place in over a dozen countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Even without the extreme of genocide, we find groups pitted against other groups. Many of us are generous…to those who are willing to help themselves. We often see this when people help the needy. We often judge the panhandler on the corner and think “if I give money to him, he probably will just buy alcohol or drugs.” “Look at the clothes this man is wearing. Maybe he is just looking for easy money and doesn’t really need a handout?” We have trouble helping people we do not have a relationship with. Our instinct is to not trust people we do not know. This instinct has served the humans race well, especially in the early parts of our existence. Survival of the fittest. At least in part, due to these factors, we don’t want to create relationships with those who need help, those who are different from us.
Sometimes this human nature is even more subtle. For example, scholarships are clearly a way to help people in need. But they can also discriminate between the weeds and the wheat. Most scholarships are merit based. They are given to students who do well in school based on criteria such as having a GPA of 3.6 or higher. We want to support young people who have a great chance of succeeding; who will ‘go places’ so to speak. There is nothing wrong with this. I am also sure we all know of people who were not at the top of their class yet were successful both in college and in their subsequent career. In some cases, students who do not have high grades are no less intelligent than those with good grades. They may have a learning disability or parents who are just not engaged in their studies. These students who have to work extra hard to keep up with the rest are penalized by not receiving financial assistance. The ones who have to work extra hard on their studies may have to take on a side job to pay for school. Thus taking additional time away from their school work with the potential to make them less successful. By the way, the scholarship that this parish offers each year has never been merit based.
This idea of equality is a fundamental shift that took place when Christ came to earth. It is a political shift from worldly kingdoms to the kingdom of heaven. It is a shift from seeing people stratified into categories; powerful and weak, smart and stupid, lovable and unlovable; into a unified kingdom where justice is equal for all. Where there is mutual respect and love. This equality doesn’t mean that everyone is exactly the same. They do not get paid the same. Equality, in this case, means that everyone has the same opportunities for success; however, you want to define success. Through Christ, we realize that the world around us, the kings and governments, do not have dominion over us because God has dominion over all.
Paul says do not live according to the flesh, for if you do you will die. This idea of being either wheat or weeds seems to come from the world around us. But ultimately, it comes from within us, from our own choices, from our own daily journey. Again Paul says “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” Do we chose to follow the Spirit of God or are we leading ourselves in the way of the world?
God is the only one who can judge the weeds from the wheat. We cannot even judge ourselves. No matter what we believe of ourselves or each person we meet. Whether we believe ourselves to be the wheat or the weed, we are all planted in the same soil together, being nourished by the same sun, receiving the same rain from above. Stretch yourself to offer love and kindness to those that are different from you. Allow yourself to be filled with the love of each other and of God.