Monday, August 20, 2007

The Wheat & The Tares

I preached on the parable of the wheat and the weeds last Sunday, noting that the central lessons are that 1) we should not judge prematurely, as we will be too inaccurate, destroying good wheat along with the weeds, and 2) God himself indicates he will supervise the judging at the end. My particular focus I mention in passing, that the agricultural story provides a mirror for the human desire to judge. Wheat-growing in the Levant was not monoculture, and a particular weed named darnel looks a lot like wheat. Therefore, weeding could be destructive if didn’t know what you were doing. Similarly, human beings have narratives about each other and the various groups we belong to, and the power of a narrative is such that we will see people inaccurately, and judge them wrongly. This is especially true if we judge too quickly.

A friend asked after service – an actual meatware friend, not the virtual variety – how do we reconcile this with John the Baptist condemning Herod, or St. Paul’s declaration that the church should separate from the man who married his mother-in-law? We are to judge, but not judge? What is the distinction we are supposed to see here? What if Gene Robinson asks to preach here? What do we do with that?

First answer: I don’t know. Great question.
Second answer: Further evidence that our preference for easy rules rather than reliance on the Holy Spirit is simplistic.
Third answer: I think there is some importance in not seeking to judge or kick folks out, but perhaps the situation changes when it is thrust upon you and judgment cannot be put off further.

Additional answers entertained gladly.


terri said...

I have to comment on this post simply because my blog title is "Wheat Among Tares."

The parable is specifically dealing with the spiritual state of people. Of course, the angels and God recognize what has happened as soon as the growth of the two plants is prominent. They know who are wheat and who are tares.

A common problem with the interpretation of the parable is that many try to use it to judge those who don't line up with the theology of the judger(i know that's not a real word)....they miss the point.

We are not to make judgments about the spiritual state of people. We can't look at someone and declare their salvation false. We are to leave that job to God. Trying to pick through the field in our own wisdom just kills everything.

That being said, we are to judge circumstances. We can look at a situation and decide whether it lines up with how God has told us to function as a church and as individuals. We can say, that is not the way we are supposed to live, this is what we must do.

As far as John The Baptist goes, Jesus said that there was no one greater who was born of a woman. I guess if someone thinks they might stack up to that pedigree, maybe they are entitled to make judgments.

Unfortunately too many want the job of John the Baptist and Paul, without the qualifications necessary.

Anonymous said...

For years I have pondered the 7 "Parables of the Kingdom" in Matthew 13. I think the Wheat&Tares is almost completely ignored, and has a point very different from the usual "don't judge."

The text suggests clearly that the servants are accurately identifying the Tares, but that Tares cannot be decisively uprooted without damaging the Wheat. The evaluation of the situation is clear, but the subtlety of the enemy is that no action is cost-beneficial. So tend the Wheat with the care it needs so you have a harvest, otherwise pay the Tares no attention.

No need to mis-classify the evident Tares, or to savage your insight. Applied in these situations, "don't judge" is a kind of disinformation.  Mucking with our minds, "oh, well, you may not know," which serves the muddle-headed or meretricious power structure all too well.

Often, we perceive with some degree of reliability. The more psychologically practical understanding of "don't judge" is "Don't mount the judge's dais in your own mind. Occupy it with something better." Not to doubt our perceptions, which will be confirmed or rebutted in due course.

In general, the "mixed" nature of the world is something commended to our forebearance. A real grasp of that fact is the antidote toward a kind of tyrannical utopian purity which appears on both the Right and the Left. Very much in line, BTW, with the teachings in Jewish mysticism of the nature and function of evil.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Very interesting take, dilys. I am glad to ponder this.