There’s a parable about the weeds and the wheat we get to hear this Sunday. Instead of good soil, we get good seeds: and one night, an evildoer sows weeds in God’s wheatfield. The angels come to God and say, “Lord, some jerk planted weeds in your wheatfield! Now these weeds are going to compete for sun and rain and nutrients from the soil. This is a disaster. Can we do some weeding?”
But the Lord God says, “No.”
“No” does not seem to be the correct response. Everybody knows that you have to weed. If the Lord God was any kind of good farmer, he would surely say, “Yes, please remove those weeds.” But instead he says, “No, if you gather the weeds, you’ll uproot the wheat [again, from a strictly agricultural perspective, this seems unlikely, but I’m a philosopher, not a farmer, or God for that matter], and at the harvest we’ll take them both out and sort them. The wheat will go into the barn, and we’ll have a barn dance for it, but the weeds will burn.”
In life, weeds and wheat, good and evil grow together. I’ve wondered at this parable, and I have thought over my own life, and the lives of the people I’ve known. Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics says you should never judge a person’s life or happiness until they’re dead, until you have the whole picture. The older I get, the more I think this is true. Living is like open ocean swimming. It’s one stroke at a time until all of a sudden, it’s over. Maybe that’s why God wants to wait for the harvest: let the wheat and the weed grow and show themselves to the world over time. Let it be evident what is wheat and what is weed. It’ll make for a messy furrow, but perhaps we’ll know more about the nature of a fruitful grain.
There are many angles to this parable, but here’s something to consider: what’s the difference between wheat and a weed? If you were to be separated, what do you hope will make the difference? What use is wheat, anyway?