‘[W]hile everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat […] The slaves said to [to the Master], “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest;’ Matthew 13:25, 28-30
Brothers and sisters, we’re working our way through Matthew’s Gospel, and we are in a section where Jesus is explaining what the kingdom of God is like. This week, Jesus develops the sowing metaphor from last week in order to challenge His followers to focus on their own growth rather than on attacking other people. Jesus tells His listeners a parable which highlights what we already know: there is trouble in the world. And Jesus explains the basics of the world to them, but only in order that those who hear the parable might focus on their own spiritual growth rather than on judging others. Jesus wants those who follow Him to be busy growing, not busy judging!
First, Jesus affirms the Jewish view of the world. Yes, says Jesus, there is evil in the world, and that evil is encouraged by the Devil. But the devil is not equal to God. There is yin and yang. No balance between Good and Evil, v24: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field’. The world belongs to God. He created it - it is His field - and what He created and what He sows, is good. v25: ‘but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away’. The devil does not have his own field. He is not creative, rather he chooses to cause havoc in God’s field. And because he is inferior to God he has to do his work under the cover of darkness because He cannot compete it in the light. Nevertheless, the devil does have an affect, and so v26: ‘when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.’ Yes, there is evil and discord in the world but it comes not from God but from the Evil One. And whilst there are those who choose to cooperate with evil, the trouble is it’s virtually impossible in most cases to tell who those people are. And this is where the servants become unstuck, they ask: ‘[Jesus] do you want us to go and gather them?’. That is, do you want us to weed them out? Jesus rebukes them: ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.’ It is so difficult to tell the one from the other that if Christians go about judging those around them they will end up weeding out other Christians. The weeds will be dealt with, but not by imperfect Christians, but rather by a perfect God, v41: ‘The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers’. Judgement will happen. Justice will be done. But it is not ours to do, for in so doing we harm ourselves and other people. No, Christians are to: be busy growing, not busy judging! We are to be critical of ourselves, not critical of others. We are to judge our own failures, not the perceived failures of other people. We are to be working on our own hearts not trying to see in to other people’s. If we choose the path of judging others we end up ceasing to work on ourselves and so end up putting our own hearts at risk. Oh sure, judging others is so much easier than dealing with our own sins, we feel good about ourselves for we have no time to look within. But here is the thing about looking down on others; we are then in the wrong position to look up to God. Christians are called to be different to a world where people exonerate themselves and spend their time judging their neighbours. We are called to do the hard work of looking up, and in seeing the perfect God, we are then rightly able to perceive the imperfections in ourselves. Not so that we go away despondent but so that we become humble - and in becoming humble - turn to the only source of our healing, our loving and merciful God.
Around us today the world is more divided than ever. Divided over Brexit, over racism, over environmental issues. On every side we will find those who consider themselves righteous fighting against those who they consider unrighteous. The danger is, we get dragged in to judging others rather than reaching out. Dragged in to looking at others’ sins, rather than our own. Jesus calls on Christians to be different, to: be busy growing, not busy judging! So, let us begin afresh this week, and in so doing prepare ourselves for the next world whilst also having a positive impact on this one. Let us be busy growing, not busy judging! Amen. (from Rev. Mike)