Ralph drives me crazy! You have a Ralph at your church, don’t you? We not only have several of them at our church but a couple of them (none named Ralph, by the way) have been in our home in recent weeks. Every church has its annoying people, its nosy people, its smelly people, and so on. That’s not who I’d like to think about right now.
Along with a selection of oddball believers, pretty much every church has somebody who is an unbeliever. This person might sit in the pews every Sunday, might drop money in the collection, might even “amen” now and again, but they’re not actual followers of Christ and their deeds often expose them, at least occasionally.
As we attempt to understand better what it is that Matthew 6:33 would have us “seek first” in the kingdom of God, my mind is drawn to the collection of kingdom parables in Matthew 13. The first in the line is the “Wheat and Tares” in Matthew 13:24-30.
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. (24-25)
The parable goes on, but I’ll trust that you can follow the link and read it on your own. In summary, the owner allows the weeds to grow up, instructing the workers to pull them out at harvest time. Interestingly, the Greek word that the CSB translates as “weeds” is actually more specific. The “tares” of older translations are a particular type of weed, one that looks like wheat but does not produce usable grain. This isn’t dandelions and chickweed, but something that masquerades as the crop–maybe it even “amens” now and again.
What does this parable teach us about the kingdom of God?
First, it seems pretty clear that the kingdom of God (or heaven) is not the same as heaven or the afterlife. Why? Is God really going to allow the “weeds” to go into heaven? And if so, then what does the harvest and the barn represent in the parable? No, I think the kingdom of God is at least initially of this world.
Second, the kingdom of God, when we reach it, will not be perfect. We might find ourselves standing in a terrific field of wheat, but God isn’t going to keep all of the weeds away from us. Our mission, it seems, is to keep seeking, which involves growing into fruitful grain ourselves, ignoring the weeds as best we can.
Third, the kingdom of God will face opposition. Notice that the weed seeds didn’t just blow in on the wind. An enemy sowed the weeds among the wheat.
A farmer needn’t teach wheat to grow. It will grow to the best it can given the conditions. Sure, weeds can interfere, but that isn’t the wheat’s problem. That’s the farmer’s affair.
So today, the kingdom of God is like a field of grain. If I’m an individual plant, then my job in seeking the kingdom is to grow and put on a head of good grain. Is it a coincidence that this grain is also seed for the next generation of wheat? I don’t think so.