Who is the Wheat and Who is the Weed?

“The servant said to Jesus, ‘Where, then, do these weeds come from?’ Jesus answered, ‘An enemy has done this’. ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ ‘No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them, and both grow together until the harvest.’”

Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between a weed and a plant you want to keep. When I was a kid, we were visiting my grandparents one summer. I was probably bored, and my grandmother was probably a little annoyed and trying to find ways to keep me occupied. So she sent me out to go weed the little patch of garden between her house and the alley. I went outside and I looked at it, and I had no idea of the difference between a weed and something she wanted to keep. I ran back inside, she came out and showed me, but it still didn’t make sense. She wanted me to pull things that had flowers on them, and she wanted to keep some things that didn’t. I listened to her, and I did a decent job. This is not a story about which I ruined everything or did a perfect job, even though those stories would be much more interesting. Instead, I did an OK job, but in the end there were still a few things she said were weeds, and a few things that I had pulled that she had wanted me to keep. But overall, it worked out OK.

I had a similar experience recently when I was having a conversation with a little child about five years old. She told me her favorite flower was a dandelion. That’s wonderful—it does have a beautiful flower, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was a weed. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between a weed and a plant you want to keep.

In Jesus’s parable today, Jesus reminds us that sometimes it is really hard to tell that difference between a weed and a plant that you want to keep. Jesus tells us this parable about the Kingdom of God: it is a field with the wheat and the weeds growing up along side each other. The word translated here as reed is zizania. Referring to my Greek dictionary, zizania is a plant that looks like wheat, but is worthless. It is sometimes called falsewheat. Now the servants seemed confident enough in their ability to tell the difference between the wheat and the falsewheat, zizania, and they are willing to give it a try so the field will be nice and pure. But Jesus says, hold on. Don’t risk the wheat by trying to pull up the weeds. The collateral damage of pulling up some of the wheat isn’t worth it. Don’t worry about it right now. Let the wheat and the weeds grow together and we will sort it all out later. Sometimes it is too hard to tell the difference between a weed and the plant you want to keep.

Jesus said in this parable that it is a parable of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not only full of the perfect ones, the pure ones, the righteous ones; the Kingdom of God is weedy. All of that imperfection will be taken care of some day, and even then it will be left to somebody else. It is not going to be left to you and me. Our job is not to create a perfect, pure little kingdom here in the field on earth. Our job is to let ourselves grow up alongside both the wheat and the weeds.