The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
By Mary Kroeger
"Another parable He put forth to them, saying: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' 28 He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' 29 But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, 'First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"
Jesus taught spiritual truth in parables because the people were unable to understand His teachings. These parables were not only for the hierarchy and people of that day, but also for us! They are not to be taken literally but need to be applied inwardly. For example, in the parable of the Sower, we can easily determine that the seed is planted in the hearts of people, not In literal soil. The parable we are studying also needs to be understood spiritually.
Wheat is the basic ingredient needed for baking bread. Jesus said that He is the bread of life. He is the truth, and we have to feed on the truth that He is in order to receive His life!
The tares are weed plants that resemble the wheat plant. So what do the tares represent? They look like wheat, but they are not what they appear to be. The fact that they pose as something they are not, tells us that they symbolize the lie. Wheat has true feeding value; the tares do not. The appearance of the tares looks inviting, but their looks are deceiving.
Notice that the wheat was planted before the tares appeared. Without the reality there can be no lie. Truth has to precede the lie. Truth bears fruit, but the lie only produces harmful deeds. "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of rage ...". (Gal. 5:19) The difference between the two becomes more evident as the plants mature. Once the lie is identified, it can be bundled up and burned.
What is the great enemy of truth, yet presents itself as truth? Is it not religion - that is, the knowledge of good and evil? This knowledge embodies the need to choose between good and evil, and that by right choices righteousness can be attained.
This idea came from the serpent, and it was introduced into this world by Adam and Eve. Their failure to obey God revealed their nakedness, so they made aprons for themselves to cover their nakedness. They tried to cover up their wrong-doing and unrighteousness by their own works. This is man's cover-up to hide his sinful state. He tries to attain righteousness by self-effort - by choosing the good and rejecting the evil. Religion comes to us in whatever costume our culture or upbringing demands. It demands obedience to its laws, rituals and doctrines. It looks inviting on the outside, but it lacks life! It comes in the deadness of the letter.
In this parable, weeds represent this mindset. The weed seed is sown when men are sleeping - when they are unconscious of what is taking place around them. We are born into a world that functions in rules and regulations. These are necessary for orderly community living. However, they do not have the power to help us keep them. On the contrary, they evoke a desire in us to break the rules. When we see a sign that says, "Wet paint, don't touch," we feel like touching it. Yet whenever someone finds a unique way of wrong-doing, we are quick to say, "There should be a law against that." Laws have their place, for they can change some behaviour patterns, but they do not have the power to change us internally. Religion functions in laws and creeds and doctrines. Although It demands obedience, it is powerless to provide help! There is no life in religion!
So why were the servants told to wait until the harvest before they could weed out the tares? The harvest is the time when the fruit comes into maturity. The tares do not produce wheat. The fruit is the evidence that it is what it says it is. The absence of wheat on the tares proves that the tares have no value. They need to be bundled up and burned.
How can we identify religion? How can we know the difference between religion and faith in Christ? In John 5:39-40 Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life." Life is in Christ, and life produces fruit!
In the early stages religion resembles faith in Christ. Much of the terminology can be the same, and both emphasize the importance of good works. But self-effort cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit! It remains centered in self. Only the life that Christ is can produce fruit! "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Gal. 5:22-23) Once we can see the fruitfulness of life, we can identify the deadness that exists in trying to make ourselves righteous. We can only change some behaviour patterns, but we cannot change our nature.
Why are the tares to be bundled up and thrown into the fire? It's because we don't come into all truth when we are born again. We need to learn continually. The lie can only be bundled up and burned once the truth is received. For example, at one time we thought Adam's lie was greater than Christ's obedience. When we learned that Christ's obedience is greater, we had to bundle up that lie and let God's consuming fire do away with it.
At one time we only interpreted the scriptures in the natural realm. When we learned about the symbolism, types and shadows in the scriptures, (as discussed in Hebrews 8:5; 10:1etc.), our eyes were opened to see spiritually. We began to see the spiritual lessons they contained We learned that we have the mind of Christ, and that the lies we formerly believed, had to be bundled up and thrown into the fire. As we grow in revelation knowledge, we find that the list of lies that need to be discarded keeps on growing.
Growth in the truth and life that Christ is, enables us to identify the counterfeit. But it is not enough to identify the counterfeits; they need to be destroyed completely! Coming into the experience of living in the truth that Christ is, shows that the wheat has been gathered into the barn!
In summing up, we see that this parable gives us an aspect of what the kingdom of heaven is like. Jesus told us that the kingdom of heaven is within us. It is an invisible kingdom of life, having a government that leads us into all truth! It brings a sharp division between the lie and the truth! It emphasizes the fact that not everything that looks like the reality, is the reality. To recognize the reality, we look at the fruit. Does the fruit look like Christ? If it doesn't, it is a counterfeit and needs to be bundled up and burned! Everything in the kingdom of heaven has to have life, and everything that does not have life has to be eradicated! This eradication has to take place in the life of every Christian, so that the life of Christ can shine through each of us!