Weeds In The Wheat : The Parable of the Tares

Keith Sharp

The Story

As He sat in a fishing boat just back from the shore and spoke to the pressing throngs, the Master related a second story about a farmer, a field, and grain. This lesson, as the Parable of the Sower, reveals an important characteristic of the kingdom of heaven.

In the parable a farmer sowed good wheat seed in his field. Under cover of darkness an enemy came and maliciously scattered seed of tares. When the plants matured, it was obvious to the workers that tares and wheat were growing together, so they asked their master why. He concluded that an enemy was responsible for the tares. They further inquired if they were to uproot the tares. No, the master replied, because that might cause the wheat to be uprooted as well. Rather, the wheat and tares would grow together until harvest, at which time the tares would be bundled for burning, and the wheat would be gathered into the barn.

According to scholars, the word translated “tares” refers to a plant known as “bearded darnel.” It is indistinguishable from wheat until the head containing grain appears, at which time the two grains are obviously different. The darnel, mildly poisonous to both people and animals, is a useless, noxious week. By the time the plants have produced heads, the roots of the wheat and darnel are so intertwined that the weeds can’t be pulled up without also uprooting the wheat.

The Keys

As with the Parable of the Sower, the Lord himself gave His disciples, and therefore us, the keys to interpret the parable.

He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. (Matthew 13:36-39)


We must guard against common misapplications. William Barclay asserted the parable teaches us that all judging is wrong. Nonsense! “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). The Lord condemned hypocritical and hypercritical judging (Matthew 7:1-2), but He taught us we must judge if people are spiritual hogs and dogs (Matthew 7:6).

And the parable has nothing whatsoever to do with discipline in the local church. “The field is the world,” not the local congregation. Congregations must purify themselves of impenitent, publicly known sinners (1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14).

Proper Applications

The Master teaches great lessons in the Parable of the Tares. Perhaps the disciples as most people today thought that when the kingdom of heaven came, all evil on earth would cease. That’s what premillenialists still believe. But in this story about the kingdom, sons of the kingdom and sons of the wicked one are intermixed in the world.

How can this be? David prophesied that Christ would rule in the midst of His enemies (Psalm 110:2). Despite the opposition of both Jew and Gentiles, kings and rulers, God set Messiah the King on His throne (Psalm 2). He rules the nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15).

A paradox of the parable helps us see what the kingdom of heaven is. “The field is the world.” but the gathering of the tares, “the Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 13:41). So, is the world the kingdom? No, the kingdom is within the wheat. “The good sons are the sons of the kingdom.” “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). The kingdom of heaven is the rule of Christ within the hearts of His disciples. The sons of the kingdom, within whose hearts the kingdom dwells, and the sons of the wicked one are intermingled in the world. The sons of the wicked one will be gathered out from among the sons of the kingdom.

The judgment to determine who is a son of the kingdom and who is a son of the wicked one doesn’t take place until the end of the age, and the one who sorts them out, in other words, passes judgment on their final destiny, is the Son of Man, aided by His angels (verses 40-41; cf. Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:22-30). I must judge to whom I will extend the right hand of fellowship (Ephesians 5:11; Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10-11; 2 John 9-11), but I have neither the knowledge nor the authority to pass judgment on anyone’s final destiny (James 4:12).

The popular acclaim enjoyed by false teachers and hypocrites can bring anguish to those who are suffering for righteousness’ sake (Psalm 73). But at the end of the age:

The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 13:41-43)

What a scene! On that day everyone will be exposed to all the world for what he truly is, wheat or tare. Those who act without divine authority (cf. Matthew 7:21-23; Colossians 3:17) and those who cause others to stumble and fall (cf. Matthew 18:6-7) will be identified as the noxious weeds they are. I do not want to be cast into that furnace of fire! But I do indeed longingly anticipate shining forth as the sun before the King of the universe and before the saved of all the ages as a son of the kingdom!

– via christistheway.com

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