Good Seed, Bad Seed


Good Seed, Bad Seed

Scripture: Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43

As you are aware from last week, I am not a gardener. Nor am I a farmer. However, I have always been led to believe that when you spot weeds in your garden you remove them. There is no need to wait until a certain time, they can simply come out. Now farming, I suspect might operate in the same manner. Remove the weeds, they aren’t helpful to the growing process.

All of this is to say that I don’t know much, but I do know that normally we remove the weeds. Unless you are Jesus telling a parable about a farmer who discovered weeds growing with the good seeds. As we read the passage the surprise that confronts us is that the weeds are not pulled out sooner. The good plants and the bad plants are allowed to intermingle together and grow. Only at the harvest will they be separated.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this parable has nothing to do with gardening or farming. If we read this passage literally as gardening advice we would probably be upset with Jesus. If the parable isn’t about agriculture, then what is it about?

This parable is the second in a series of parables. As we examine it and search for meaning it is important remember what parables are. They are their own genre within scripture. They provide us with images and meaning. Each parable is distinct unto itself and is pointing to its own distinctive truth. However, brought together parables are a tool which help us understand scripture.

On parables Chelsey Harmon writes, “Biblical commentators on the parables approach them by trying determine the underlying question that the storyteller is answering, i.e., the authorial intent (with the added layer of the second layer of intent from the gospel writers themselves). This reminds us that a parable is not meant to answer every question we want to ask of it, but to communicate something really important to us that would help us understand and approach all of the questions we bring.

“So with our parable about the wheat and the tares being allowed to grow together, the question behind the story seems to be, as commentator Klyne Snodgrass poses it, “Can the work of Jesus and his small group really be the Kingdom when so much is still wrong? How can this be the Kingdom if evil is still present?” (Chelsey Harmon –

That last part is the question that this parable is trying to answer. If there is evil in the world, sometimes an overwhelming amount, can good still be accomplished? This is what the wees represent, the evil that exists in the world. The wheat represents what is good, it represents the kingdom of God. In this way the parable really isn’t about gardening or farming. It is trying to tell us a different truth. We know that things which cause harm and suffering exist. The parable reminds us that along side these societal and worldly ills, God’s kingdom also exists.

Embedded within this idea of the good and bad being allowed to grow together is a level of dualism. While the parable is devastating towards the bad or the weeds, separated and burned. The dualism rooted in the passage has a message for us which tempers the message.

On one hand we acknowledge that society, and therefore, the church has both good and bad, we can’t make the presumption of being good. We can’t hold ourselves above others, pointing our fingers and casting judgment about.

On the other side we have to recognize that both the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds, were allowed to grow together. The verdict is determined at the end. This reminds us of God’s patience, that God allows the mix. The world is complex and ambiguous, as people of God the verdict rests with God and not with us.

John Carrol attempts to find the balance in the passage as follows, this is a passage about judgement, specifically about God’s diving judgment. However, that doesn’t let us off the hook. Oppressive evil still needs to be name and opposed. Silence, neutrality, or failure to act in the face of oppression only serves the interests of the oppressor. We can’t presume to be always in the right, but when we witness injustice, patient waiting from the sidelines for God to make things right is not a faithful option. Some weeds are not okay. (John Carroll –

While the parable cautions us about leveling unnecessary judgment, we need to be clear. The passage is about judgment, a higher level of judgment that we usually concern ourselves with. The parable isn’t telling us how to approach evil in the world, it’s asking us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. To recognize that the kingdom is present, that it is already here even if there is evil in the world.

In naming and knowing this we still have an obligation to work towards the goals of the kingdom. Feeding the hungry, helping the poor, empowering the oppressed, and comforting those who mourn. We don’t sit tight and say I’m good with Jesus, it will all work itself out in the end and then act as if we are oblivious to the woes of the world. Jesus would have some rather scathing words for us were we to do that.

We need to trust the farmer.

We need to trust in the message of the farmer.

We need to understand our part in the message Jesus has for us. While God is in control and has a message of comfort and reward for us. It doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to work towards the goals of the kingdom. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security. 

Kristina Nairn

Public Health Nurse, HKPR Health Unit

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