To a multitude gathered before Him, Jesus spoke the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43), in which He exposes the work of the mystery of sin against the church and the extent to which the evil one is allowed to go in his opposition to it. This parable reveals a slightly different aspect of the same truth taught in the preceding Parable of the Sower. In the Tares, the mixed character of the church culminates in the ultimate separation of the religious hobbyists—and worse—from the saints.
In this parable, there are two sowers, two kinds of seed, and two harvests: one good, the other bad. The Parable of the Sower depicts four kinds of soils, but in the Parable of the Tares, the field, which Jesus says represents the world (verses 24, 38), contains all the soils interspersed over its entirety.
1. What do the two sowers represent? Matthew 13:24-25.
Comment: Jesus illustrates two sowers of different character. In the Parable of the Sower, the sower stands for all teachers of God's truth, including Jesus. Here, "the sower" is exclusively Jesus. He is the "owner" (verse 27), and "the son of Man" (verse 37). The other sower is called "his enemy," "an enemy," "the wicked one," and "the devil" (verses 25, 28, 38-39). To describe this enemy, Jesus uses the word diabolos: the accuser, deceiver, liar, and betrayer, one who is against all that is true and righteous.
The enemy sowed in a field that was not his while the servants slept. This does not necessarily mean that the servants were not watchful and were thus to blame for the mixed field. The wording implies that it was the normal time for sleep, night. Satan's sly nature is revealed in his choice of the darkness for doing his diabolical work. Also, note that he does not bother to sow the wicked among the wicked, but the wicked among the good.
2. Are the tares easily distinguishable from the wheat? Matthew 13:24-29.
Comment: Satan's malicious intention in sowing tares among the wheat is to cause problems and confusion (James 3:16). The bad seeds grow to become poisonous weeds that allow only the healthiest of the wheat to survive. Tares, like weeds, have never been a marketable product. "Tares" are actually darnel, a seed hardly identifiable from the wheat seed, and immature wheat and darnel look alike. To try to destroy the darnel would mean destroying much of the wheat, and separating one from the other would be beyond the servants' abilities. Only when the wheat has matured can the tares be detected. Then the tares are gathered together in bundles in the field and destroyed by fire.
Many who are not in the process of conversion resemble those who are. Just like true Christians, they go to church, pray, and read the Bible, but they are only religious hobbyists. Jesus calls them "sons of the wicked one" (Matthew 13:38), and being tares, they will be destroyed. The tares are not originally from the wicked one, but they develop character according to his strong influence. They are led by him and so are his children (John 8:44).
3. How does this parable relate to the church?
Comment: This parable exposes the problem of evil intermingled with good within congregations, just as the same mix confronts nations, communities, and homes. No matter how society tries to legislate or separate out lawbreakers from the rest of society, the seeds of sin and crime find a place to grow. God's church is similarly affected by Satan's constant attacks. The genuine and the counterfeit wheat are always together in the church.
The servants' perplexity about the sowing of the tares shows that the presence of sin is often a mystery to people (II Thessalonians 2:7-10). God cannot be blamed for them because He does not sow evil—Satan does (James 1:13). By this parable, Jesus prophesies that the church of God on earth would be imperfect. The spiritual church has members with the Holy Spirit who are dedicated and loyal, yet have personal defects. It also has within it unconverted people who may recognize the truth but are there only to enjoy association with God's people. Jesus' intent is to enlighten and warn the saints of this fact, not to expose the tares at this time (Acts 20:29-32). God will root out the bad seed when the good seed has matured.
4. What is expected of the good seed?
Comment: "The good seed," "the wheat," and "the sons of the kingdom" refer to baptized members of God's church in whom the Holy Spirit dwells—the saints, the elect, the righteous (Matthew 13:43). In the previous parable, the seed represents "the word of the kingdom" (verse 19), but here, the good seed is the product of that word received, understood, and obeyed. The Son of Man, as the Sower or Owner, sows only good seed, those who are righteous due to walking worthy of God—living His way of life, and becoming the "children of the kingdom" (I John 2:6; II John 6; I Thessalonians 2:10-15).
It is God's will that Jesus Christ the Redeemer sow His redeemed ones in this world of sin and misery for the purpose of training and testing them to become true witnesses for Him in preparation for the Kingdom. Therefore, He has placed Christians where He wants them. Jesus tells Peter in Luke 22:31 that he was wheat, and as such, he was to be sifted by Satan. All of God's saints should heed this warning to watch and pray that the field of our heart not be sown with tares by the enemy. God has bought us with a price and given us His Spirit, making us new creations in Him and heirs of His Family and eternal life. He expects us to bear fruit in our corner of the field of this world in which He has sowed us.