As an English teacher I always love to analyse Jesus’ parables with my Religious Education classes. Jesus was a master storyteller and teacher. He used literary devices such as allegory and hyperbole with such skill that he was able to draw his audience in, and then shock them with a twist that jarred them into personal reflection and recognising the seriousness of his message.
The parable of the wheat and the weeds is a great example of Jesus’s literary mastery. It is the story of a sower who plants wheat in his field, but an enemy secretly sows weeds among the wheat. As the plants grow, the weeds become apparent. The servants of the sower suggest pulling out the weeds, but the sower advises against it, recognising that uprooting the weeds may harm the wheat.
There are several messages contained within this parable. Firstly, it acknowledges the reality of the coexistence of good and evil. Just as the enemy intentionally sows weeds among the wheat, evil exists alongside the good in our world. Jesus therefore dispels any notion that the world will be free from challenges and difficulties.
Secondly, the parable teaches the importance of patience and discernment. The master’s decision to wait until the harvest reflects God’s wisdom in allowing both good and evil to coexist temporarily. When we are quick to judge or act without discernment to remove someone or something it may inadvertently harm what is good. When we ignore someone within our friendship group because we don’t agree with their taste in music or we judge someone because of their religion, we are not creating community, we are not building the kingdom of God.
Finally, Jesus also reminds his followers not to lose hope in the face of evil but to persevere faithfully, knowing that a time will come when all things will be made right and that we need trust in God. We must resist the temptation of being overzealous weeders, judging others and excluding people, such judgements are not for us and should be left to God alone. Instead, we should focus our energy on our own growth. We should focus on faithfully living the gospel values and spreading the seeds of God’s kingdom – acceptance, hope, joy, peace, love – in a world marked by both goodness and evil.
Ultimately, the parable of the wheat and the weeds invites each of us to embrace the gospel values in our lives and to trust in God.