In Matthew 13:24-30 we find “the parable of the tares.” It reads as follows: In the parable of the tares Jesus gave an illustration of what the kingdom of heaven is “likened unto,” that is, what it resembles. Then He went on to illustrate. The reader should examine the parable carefully. A look at the parable tells us several things. It illustrates what the true people of God face in their association with the world. It demonstrates that they live in a world where evil prevails and grows. It shows that at this present time God is not attempting to remove the wicked. It tells us the time for the removal of the wicked is yet for the future (verse 30, Matt. 13:41-42). And, it points out that both the righteous and the wicked are allowed to pursue their own course until the time of harvest-the day of rewards and punishments-the day when Jesus Christ sets up His kingdom. This is why Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to a man sowing seed in a field.
Consider what would occur if the kingdom of heaven referred to the Church. It would mean that the Church permits evil to thrive. This would certainly include heresy and blatant sin. Yet, the Bible instruction is plain. Heresy and blatant sin cannot be tolerated within the Church. Ministers of God are required to stop the spread of these two destructive plagues.
The parable explains that as seed is sown in a field, the children of God are sown in the world. The seed of the Word is sown in their hearts and minds (Matt. 13:23, 1 Cor. 3:6, Mark 4:31, 1 Pet. 1:23). They are growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are developing character (2 Pet. 3:18). They are the children of the kingdom. By contrast, we find there are those without true spiritual orientation. They have no Bible understanding, and they have no interest in the spiritual things of God. They are the tares. We have the children of truth and the children of error. We have the children of good and the children of evil. We have the children of God and the children of Satan-the good seed are the children of God; the bad seed are the children of the devil. What we have, then, are true believers and the nonbelievers. In the present world both exist side by side.
After the disciples asked Jesus the meaning of the parable, He explained:
. . . He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear (Matt. 13:37-43).
One cannot deny there is a parallel between what takes place in the world and what takes place in the Church. There is no such thing as a perfect church. Therefore, many of the kinds of problems found in the world can be found in the Church. While the ministry has the duty of keeping the Church free from heresy and blatant sin, there are many lesser forms of wrong kind of behavior that do not call for the stringent action required for heresy and blatant sin. One example of this is found in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14:
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you . . . .For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread . . . .And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Various theologians have argued over what is meant by the term “kingdom of heaven” in verse 24. Many have interpreted it to mean the Church. Others take it to mean the Kingdom of God. We see by comparing Matthew 13:11 with Mark 4:11 that the term “kingdom of heaven” is synonymous with the term “kingdom of God.” The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are one and the same. The kingdom of heaven, or Kingdom of God refers to the literal kingdom Jesus will set up on this earth at His return. See Matthew 25:31-34. The terms kingdom of heaven and Kingdom of God do not refer to the Church or any other physical entity on this earth today. The Kingdom of God has yet to come to this earth. When it does, there will be no doubt. What constitutes the Kingdom of God was explained in Number One of this series.
Freeloaders were not disfellowshiped but made to feel ashamed. Nevertheless, those who live this kind of lifestyle are a blot on the Church and fall within the tare category. They are not growing spiritually. They are not overcoming the pulls of human nature, or qualifying for the Kingdom of God. What did Jesus say awaits them if they fail to root out this personal problem in their lives? Read again Matthew 13:41-42. But Jesus warned about yanking out the tares too soon. Recall what the landowner said, “. . . Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. . .” (Matt. 13:29-30) People with such personal problems have to be given time to overcome their bad habits. Acting too quickly to remove them may damage or ruin others in the Church.
In the early New Testament Church Paul had to contend with false brethren (2 Cor. 11:26). These looked authentic on the surface, but sooner or later the truth about them came to light. While these people were a danger, Paul often had to wait until their conduct made it clear what must be done. Some had to be publicly marked (1 Tim 1:19-20); people had to be warned about others (Rom. 16:17). So, each situation has to be evaluated on its own merits based on the potential or real damage to the Church. However, what is important for the purpose of this article is that tares can be found both in the world and in the Church.
No one versed in the Bible would deny the world is made up of many evil people. But, the idea that the Church is an institution comprised of perfect people is a complete misunderstanding of the purpose of the Church and the ministry. Paul tells us:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ (Eph. 4:11-15).
As we see above, the purpose of the Church is to enable imperfect people to grow into the spiritual image of God. If men were already perfect, there would be no need for a Church. The idea that the Church is comprised of perfect people is detrimental in the following way. Those who feel they are spiritually superior to others, whether in or out of the Church, tend to be self-righteous. They are judgmental toward all who fail to meet their standards. What did Jesus warn about this?
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye (Matt. 7:1-5).
The Apostle Paul admonished: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). The mysteries of God were given to the disciples, and later to all truly converted Christians, but that does not make believers free from faults and sins of their own.
Observant people know the world is becoming more evil. Who is the invisible influence behind the tares of this world? Remember, when the servants told the householder about the tares, he said, “An enemy hath done this.” Christ said this enemy was Satan (Matt. 13:28, 39). Satan is the invisible god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). He cannot give what he does not possess. Yet, he told Christ that if He would bow down and worship him, he (Satan) would give Him all the kingdoms of the world (Matt. 4:8-9). Satan is the prince of this world (John 12:31). He controls this present world. The vast majority have been deceived by means of the various concepts Satan has generated (Rev. 12:9). This deception, both secular and religious, has led to all kinds of evil practices. When will all the evil in the world stop? Not until Christ returns, for He said: “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 13:41-43).
The problem with many professing Christians today is that they do not really believe the candid truth of the Bible. They may not disagree with God’s promise to punish the wicked, but they find it hard to believe it could happen to them. Why? Because they do not believe they could be wicked in the eyes of God. They do not consider themselves to be tares. This is why the Apostle Peter warns:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet. 3:10-13).
This admonition and many others in the Bible is why it is so important to understand and consider the parable of the tares.