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The parable of the tares (Matthew 13:24-30) should be like nails on a chalkboard to any good home gardener. The landow ner’s advice to leave the weeds untouched frustrates the compulsion to pluck them out as soon as they break the soil’s surface: “No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.” (verse 29)

Gardening is not the parable’s main point. Rather, as Jesus explains, the main point concerns the kingdom perspective toward evil in the world. Far more complex than any six-by-eight-foot garden plot, this fallen creation is a mess, which the sinner’s best efforts to clean up can only make worse.

At first, the servants express the common accusation against God—how He could let evil run rampant? “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?”  (verse 27)

The master’s answer is straightforward: “An enemy has done this.” And the fact that it happened “while men slept” teaches that this is a spiritual conflict far above the pay grade of mortal man.

Yet the servants’ impulse “to go and gather them up” speaks to the temptation to take matters into your own hands. You risk uprooting wheat with the tares when you take the place of God and presume to judge your neighbor’s heart. More harm is done than good whenever you become a busybody in other men’s matters.

Whenever you endeavor to rid the world of its weeds, you take on an impossible task which inevitably leads you into some form of the very evil you seek to uproot.

As with all of Jesus’ parables, the Wheat and the Tares is a word puzzle contrary to the natural man’s first instinct, meant to turn the tables on the way you think of spiritual matters. And as is the case with each parable, the missing piece to the puzzle is the cross.

The avid home gardener may object, “If you don’t do a thing, you’ll be overrun by weeds!” But Jesus put up no objection when evil men choked in upon Him. Though He could have called upon twelve legions of angels to scour Gethsemane clean (Matthew 26:53), Jesus followed His own advice, so that in His bitter suffering and death you could see the sin which infests your soul burned up in His boundless love. And in His resurrection, He gathers His blood-bought own into a righteous crop of His own making.

The Gospel is the key which unlocks this parable’s tension. Only through faith in Christ’s saving power can you agree with the landowner to “let both grow together until the harvest” (verse 30), and leave every wicked thing in His wise and perfect care.

The parable teaches you to refrain from tearing up evil according to your own flawed standards. Rather, the Savior replaces that misplaced zeal with the true remedy for this world’s woes. Sons of the kingdom still sprout forth today through the good seed placed in our care: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

With spiritual eyes fixed on the wheat-blossoms of faithful Gospel preaching, your weed-pulling itch becomes transformed into the fervent prayer for Christ to send forth His angels and set us eternally free.

Wait on Him to clean it up. He knows what He’s doing.

Timothy Daub is pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Hecla, South Dakota.