In this story, a man sowed seed in his field, and during the night, an “enemy” sowed tares among the wheat. Both grow up together, and when a servant asked what to do, the sower said that they should let the wheat and the tares grow up together, since pulling up the tares would damage the wheat, as well. At the harvest, they will separate the wheat and the tares, gathering both and burning the tares.
A few verses later, the disciples ask what this parable means. They were particularly confused by this one. So Jesus explains in Matt 13, 36-43. The sower, again, is Jesus, and the good seed are sons of the Kingdom of God (disciples). The field is the world. The tares are sons of the “wicked one,” and the devil sowed them in the world. Both are gathered and judged at the end of the age, where the righteous will shine forth and the wicked will burn in punishment.
Simple, right? A couple thoughts:
First, here the seeds are people, not the message. The man who owns the field, Jesus, sows people of the Kingdom and those people are righteous, and the implication is that they act righteously. The devil sows his own seed – people who act wickedly and are destined for destruction.
Here we see a Kingdom principle of source and destination. The end is seen in the source. If a person’s source is in the Kingdom, then the organic, natural result is shining forth in the Father’s Kingdom. If a person’s source is in the devil, then they will do works of the devil. As Jesus says elsewhere, “You are of your father the devil, because you do what he does.” This is why we must be “born again” so we can see and enter the Kingdom and come from a different source.
Second, devil works at night, under cover of darkness. We may not see him working, but we can notice his handiwork after the fact. This is important. It will look different from the righteousness of the Kingdom, even though it may be within the same “field,” the world.
And it surprises us. How did this happen? It takes supernatural revelation from the Master to tell us the enemy is at work. The devil does not want to be seen. As Kaiser Soze says, “The greatest lie the devil ever told was that he doesn’t exist.”
Third, the Lord will sift it. He may give us revelation about who is a wheat and tare (and this is for evangelical purposes, to love and not to condemn), but our comfort and peace should be that the King of all will separate and reward or condemn accordingly. That is not our job. We love and encourage and spread life and let God do the job of condemnation.
As an aside, that does not mean that we do not “judge” according to fruit and the Spirit, as to who is following Christ or not. The Bible is clear about this. But we cannot condemn before the time. The story is not over. He is Lord of the harvest.