Day 91: April 1, 2013

Today's Reading(s)

Matthew 13:36-43 Read Online


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Today's Reflection

Key Verse(s)

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!

—Matthew 13:43

Learning How to Leave the Weeds Alone
by Darrell Gwaltney,

Reading the scripture for today's devotional may feel like following a group of people into a house and realizing they’re at the end of an extended conversation. There’s some low mumbling, quiet conversation, and just a shade of tension in the air.

It’s clear not everyone understands what they’ve been talking about, and there are questions in the group.

The stories, or parables, of Jesus often created this kind of reaction. Like all good stories, Jesus' parables draw the listener in and challenge the listener to find him or herself in the story. As we hear the story, we often wonder, “Does this apply to me?”

Matthew 13 begins with Jesus sitting in a boat on the seashore teaching a large group of people. He taught them by telling them parables. The way His disciples question Him about choosing to teach that way, and the way Jesus explains His parables, illustrates that not everyone always understood what He was saying.

Matthew 13:24-30 relates one of the parables Jesus told that day. It focuses on a farmer, sowing good seeds in a field, and someone following him, sowing weeds in the field. In the parable, the farmer tells his workers not to pull up the weeds. It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now. What does Jesus want to teach?

Our scripture for today gives us an explanation to the parable from verses 24-30. When we read verses 36-40, it’s exactly like we have followed someone into a house after an extended conversation. The text reflects that situation.

The disciples asked Jesus to explain the parable about the weeds to them. They did not understand what it meant to them.

When Jesus explains it he tells the disciples that he is the farmer and they are the good seed that he has sown in the field. When Jesus explains the weeds Matthew uses a word to convey what Jesus said that can be interpreted as enemy, adversary, or devil. These meanings reflect something very important for our understanding of the text.

Jesus says this enemy sows weeds among the good seeds. When he told the parable in verses 24-30 he said the weeds should be left alone. Here, he explains that in the end of all things angels will harvest the weeds and they will be burned in a fire of judgment.

What does this mean to us today? As one of the more complex of Jesus' parables, and given the brief form of this devotion, please permit me to “cut to the chase.”

If the seeds are the followers of Jesus then the parable calls attention to the way weeds often grow among the followers of Jesus. The work of enemies or adversaries among the followers of Jesus often has the same effect as weeds in a field. They hamper growth and choke out new life.

Among churches or communities of believers, we’re often tempted to weed out people who create difficulty or stir up conflict. In effect, Jesus says in this parable, “Don’t make it your business to deal with the troublemakers. I’ll take care of them in the end.” We’re not supposed to weed.

The parable calls believers to live among the weeds, troublemakers, conflict-creators—to do the work we’ve been called to do. Should any weeds need pulling, then we should leave that up to Jesus.

In the end, we should remember we’re not farmers. We’re seeds. We’ve been planted to grow and bear witness to the one who planted us. The weeds that grow up around us are the responsibility of the farmer. We’re simply supposed to grow—even among the weeds.

Reflection Questions

  1. When you first read the parable in verses 24-30, did you come to a different interpretation? Why? Did your interpretation reflect any biases that you have when you read scripture?
  2. Have you ever thought of yourself simply as a seed and Jesus as a farmer? If your obligation is to grow, then how does that change the way you feel compelled to correct people around you?
  3. How would you explain this parable to someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus or criticizes the church? Would you be able to explain that even Jesus says there will be weeds in His field?

About the Author

Darrell Gwaltney
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Darrell comes from St. Louis, Missouri, so it makes sense that he’s an avid St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. For the last 33 years, he’s served in pastoral and teaching ministry. Since May 2004, he’s been the Dean for the School of Religion at Belmont University and continues to serve churches in the area as interim pastor. He’s married to Donna and has three adult children. You can find him online at DarrellGwaltney.com and follow him on Twitter @DarrellGwaltney.