Good and Evil and the Untrained Eye


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a parable about a man with a wheat field. During the night, some guy with a really, really bad attitude snuck in and sowed some weeds among the wheat.

Which is interesting because weeds are the kind of things that don’t need sowing. They just appear. But these aren’t ordinary weeds, they are weeds that look so similar to a young wheat plant as to be indistinguishable to the untrained eye.

When everything started growing together and they discovered the ruse, the untrained-eye workers offered to pull the weeds.

The landowner said, “No, you untrained-eye guys may think you can tell the difference between the weeds and the wheat but you can’t, because your eyes are, you know, untrained. You’ll end up pulling the wheat along with the weeds. When the wheat is mature it is easily distinguishable from the weeds, even to the untrained eye. We’ll separate them at the harvest.”

Jesus tells it better than I do, but he’s, you know, Jesus.

The whole point is that we’re all pretty bad at telling the good guys from the bad guys, who’s in and who’s out.

More to the point, when we try to tell who’s in and who’s out, and try to keep those who are supposed to be out out while getting out those who are in but are really out, things end up in a bigger mess than this sentence I just wrote.

In other words—and, goodness, other words are needed—the effort to root out the bad from the good damages the whole crop.

Or congregation.

Or country.

Or world.

Jesus said that whatever separating needed to be done would be done at the harvest. “Harvest” is a biblical term for the judgment that occurs at the end of the age, when God declares what is right and what is wrong, who has been right and who has been wrong.

It also marks the beginning of the new age, the kingdom of God, when God sets everything to rights.

It’s God’s decisive action. And that’s the point. It’s not ours. None of us. We are all untrained-eye guys. Worse, our eyes are prejudiced.

We all think we’re wheat. In every accounting of wheat and weeds, nobody thinks they are a weed. We’re all wheat, which means that everybody who is like us—like us in religion, or in political stance, or in ethnicity, or in citizen status—is wheat also.

And everyone who is different from us—different in religion, in political stance, in ethnicity, in citizen status—is a weed.

An outsider.

A them.

As if religion or political stance or ethnicity or citizen status really mean anything.

As if being different matters to God.

As if God wants and expects everyone to be the same.

As if a world replete with amazing variety doesn’t reveal a God who loves amazing variety.

A God who, in his very essence—Eternal Father, Divine/Human Son, Breath/Wind/Spirit—displays amazing variety.

Not only are we incapable of telling wheat and weeds apart in others, we’re incapable of distinguishing it in ourselves.

Paul found this out the hard way. In his zeal he was busy separating weeds from the wheat until in a blinding light Jesus revealed to Paul that his zeal was itself a weed he had allowed to grow and take over his entire life.

What he thought was good in him was actually evil.

He wasn’t a persecutor of weeds, but a persecutor of the Lord himself.

He was a murderer of innocent people.

In the parable Jesus said that when the wheat was mature you could tell the difference.

Maybe the maturing begins when you realize that you are a mixture of wheat and weeds, and instead of worrying about the next person’s weeds, you submit to God’s weeding in your life.

Until all that is left is wheat.

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