Sowing Seeds: Applying the Parable

With spring approaching, it’s a great time to begin planning your garden.  I doubt that anyone would attempt to plant their garden seeds on their driveway, probably wouldn’t plant seeds amongst your rose or blackberry bushes, and I doubt anyone would throw a few weed seeds in with their good seed.  Yet this is exactly what happens in the parables that Jesus teaches us in Matthew 13. 

We’ve probably all heard the first parable of this chapter, The Parable of the Sower.  This parable falls along the lines of the analogy I used when planting your garden.  Jesus tells of seeds that are thrown along the path and devoured by birds, sown in rocky soil and withers shortly because it has no roots, and others that fell among the thorns and are choked out.  He then tells of those seeds that fell on good soil and produced grain some hundredfold.  In Jesus’ explanation of this parable found in vs. 18-23, we learn that the seed is the Word of God and that the soil is the heart of man.  Those seeds that were planted along the path, the evil one snatches away.  The seed sown in the rocky soil are hearts that receive the Word with joy, but when times get tough falls away because there is no root within.  Those seeds that are sown among the thorns are those people that hear the Word, but fall victim to the deceitful cares of the world that chokes out the Word.  The seed that brings forth fruit are those that hear the Word and understand it.  This parable is probably one of the best known and a fascinating example of those that hear the Word of God and choose to either reject or accept it.  As important as the parable is to understanding these truths, I want to draw attention to a second parable in this chapter.  Perhaps a lesser known story, The Parable of the Weeds

 Jesus tells this parable in Matthew 13:24-30 and I’ve included it below:

 24Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

 27“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

 28” ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
      “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

 29” ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ “

Jesus explains this parable in vs. 36-43 describing that the one who sowed the seeds is the Son of Man, the field is the world, and the good seed represents the “sons of the kingdom.”  The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the “enemy” that sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the “end of age” while the harvesters are the angels.  As the weeds are pulled up, they are thrown into the fiery furnace and the righteous will “shine like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father.”  While Jesus does and excellent job of illustration, I’d like to apply this lesson to the modern day world. 

First, let’s think about the good seed sown in the field.  We know from the first parable, that this good seed are those that receive the Word of God, understand it, apply it, and bear fruit as a result.  These are Christians that are firmly rooted in the Word of God.  Reading and studying it daily, feeding on the Daily Bread. Luke 11:3 Next, let’s look at the sowed weeds.  Think about what is happening here.  The field is planted, the good seed sown, ready to take root and grow.  Those Christians that receive the Word are prepared to bear fruit.  But what is the role of the weeds?  First let’s examine the role of weeds in nature’s wheat field. 

The Department of Agriculture states that the presence of weeds within a crop can adversely affect the production by increasing cost in several ways, the greatest of which is “a reduction in yield due to weeds competing with the crop for available light, nutrients and moisture.”  Hmmm, so the enemy in verse 25 came through while everyone was sleeping and planted weeds with the intent of reducing the yield of the harvest.  The interesting aspect here is that the weeds are among us and their sole purpose is to compete for the light, to keep it from us, to hide the Truth.  The life of the “weed” mirrors the life of the “wheat”; same soil, same nutrients, same water, same sunlight.  We can look at it as working at the same jobs, going to the same church, our friends, relatives, you name it.  In fact, the King James Version of this same passage refers to the weeds as tares.  These “tares” are thought to be the species darnel.  Consider the following definition of this from Wikipedia: “…usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and is considered a weed. The similarity between these two plants is so extensive that in some regions the [darnel] is referred to as “false wheat.” It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. The ears on the real wheat are so heavy that it makes the entire plant droop downward, but the “false wheat”, whose ears are light, stands up straight.  It parasites wheat fields.”  This truth is simply too profound to ignore.  The tares among us are actually a “false wheat.”  If we preach the Bible and hold fast to its doctrines and truths then that must mean that the “tares” preach a false Bible with false doctrines.  We appear exactly the same, indistinguishable until the time of the harvest.

How then did we allow the weeds to get planted in the first place?  Because everyone was asleep.  Matthew 13:25, “But while everyone was sleeping, His enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.”  The Great Awakening occurred in the 1730’s (1730-1755), some 200+ years after the Protestant Reformation (1500s).  Then there were arguably periods of “awakenings” in 1790-1840, followed by the third 1850-1900, and the fourth 1960-1980.  While these later movements, especially the 4th, are debatable, it has been a long time since the first Great Awakening, offering a lot of time for the church to fall asleep and the enemy to grab a foothold and plant his weeds.  That’s exactly where we are today, the church is asleep and the weeds of the devil have been planted.

In the final verses Jesus speaks of His own discernment in not having the servants pull the weeds, instead allowing them both to harvest.  Since  the tares and wheat are virtually indistinguishable until harvest, potential would arise to damage the wheat.  This practice saves the wheat that was able to fend off the weeds.  Waiting until harvest allows the wheat to fully mature, though likewise the weeds, but the harvest creates a better opportunity to separate the two because the wheat bows due to the weight of their ears.  We can view this allegory  as a symbol of the Body of Christ bowing down as the “harvest” comes with His return.       

It’s often easy to read a parable, or even a passage of scripture, and not fully grasp the idea.  It’s especially easy to gloss over these parables without applying them to our daily lives.  The Lord gives us the ability to understand these things through the Holy Spirit.  In fact, Jesus mentions this very thing in vs. 11-17, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.  Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.  In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ” ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’  But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Are you the tare or the wheat?…….The harvest is coming…

Worldly Wisdom

I Corinthians 2:14-16 “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”

Consider the following excerpt from John Wesley.  It fits in so well with today’s world.

The men and women of learning are so well versed in controversies and reasoning that it is a small thing with them to prove that their way is right because it is broad.  They will show you that one who follows a multitude cannot do evil – only the one who will not follow them; that your way must be wrong because it is narrow and because so few people find it.  They will further demonstrate that evil is good and good is evil – that the way of holiness is the way of destruction, and the way of the world is the only way to heaven.

Yet we must contend not only with these wise ones in the broad way.  There are also many important, noble, and powerful men and women in the way that leads to destruction.  These do not apply to your understanding but to your fears.  This method seldom fails even where argument profits nothing.  For everyone has the capacity to fear whether they can reason or not.

So that everyone who has not a firm trust in God, a sure reliance both on His power and love, does naturally fear to give offense to those who have the power of the world in their hands.  It is no wonder then, if the example of these powerful people is a law to all who do not know God.

Surely even in John Wesley’s era there were those who would seek to lead Christians and non-Christians astray, but we can always rely on the Word of God as our measuring stick of truth.  Think about the verse from the Apostle Paul above, “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things.”  Test everything against the Truth using spiritual discernment.

Part 4: Build your House in ’09

The Windows and Doors

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

What if you had a house that had no doors, no windows, or no way to let in natural light?  You would have electrical lights, but without sunlight it would begin to get depressing.  A house without windows and doors becomes more like a dungeon, than a healthy living space.  Now think about being in the middle of the woods at night.  You’re lost, hungry, cold, and miserable.  The moon isn’t visible and its pitch black outside, except for the lights from a large log cabin setting up on a hill.  It’s your only hope for survival.  But without the windows and doors of that cabin, the lights would not shine.  Without that light, you couldn’t see it, as though it didn’t exist.  If it were just a dungeon, like in our first example, with no windows or doors, the light wouldn’t shine.  The same is true of us Christians when we are content to live within ourselves, become self-absorbed in our own “rat race” and refuse to observe the verse above by letting our, “light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

The Bible tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV So we know that works will not save us, but we also must recognize that, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:17 NKJV In context within this chapter, James is instructing us that we are called to serve others, not through our faith, but through our service by means of our faith, so that as Matthew told us above we may have our, “light shine.”  This outward expression of an inward connection allows others to see how God works in the life of a believer.  Later in this same chapter, James references Abraham.  “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’  And he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”  This example shows just how strong faith and actions work together in our lives.  As James concludes this chapter he states, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:26

Just as we are to have faith and works, we can express those works through our spiritual gifts given to us by the grace of God.  The scriptures tell us in Romans that, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8 Each of these gifts, and others, are examples of how we are able to express our faith outwardly to others.  When we use the gifts to serve one another, the Apostle Paul tells us to do so in love. Galatians 5:13  Peter builds upon this thought by telling us, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” I Peter 4:10

We can profess our faith to others, recite Bible verses, show up to church to worship, but our faith, our heart, our inward light will only shine when we set aside ourselves by serving others.  Our service is the true window to our soul and one of the best testimony’s we have for non-believers.

Luke 11:35-36 “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.  Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.”

II Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"