The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. Now, this man worked SO hard on his field. In his town, he was considered the best when it came to gardening (at least he thought so). He researched everything he needed to know before planting. He had an amazing crew. He put everything he had into ensuring a successful harvest this year.
Throughout the Summer, in the scorching heat or even when it was raining, he was out working. It often meant working long hours, including unpaid overtime. Fortunately, he loved gardening. Some of his happiest evenings were spent working on the field, when it was cooler… especially when his family could help.
He worked SO HARD on those fields, excited about a successful harvest. His whole life and well-being depended on it- everything was at stake. It meant another year of putting food on the table, paying rent, and having a happy family. That’s why he prayed so much that God would help him have a successful year. And not only did he pray, but he was an incredibly righteous person. He was a GOOD person, worked hard, and treated his workers fairly.
Then, the day came. As harvest time was approaching, one of the workers came to him with the news. What’s this? Suddenly, weeds plagued the field where he had worked so hard. How could this happen? He had worked so hard. He had done EVERYTHING right! Not only did he work his butt off, but he was a good person, and prayed every day about this field. And now… weeds! He didn’t deserve this. All his work was ruined. Leaving the weeds would choke out the wheat, ruining his crop… his livelihood. But ripping them out would tear up a lot of the wheat he worked so hard to grow. There was no good way out, no easy solution… not even a silver lining, it seemed.
Jesus tells us that THAT is where we find the kingdom of God. When you plant good seed and get weeds. When you work your butts off and everything blows up in your face. When you do your best and fail, or worse, when you do your best and your work is sabotaged, or just generally turns out disastrous. Really, whenever things go wrong.
My guess is that some of you have had experiences like this. These “weeds” crop up all over our lives. And no matter how hard we try to do things right and make sure everything goes well… there they are. Sometimes the weeds destroy our wheat. Sometimes we’re not sure if we can tear them out, or if we just have to leave them. But make no mistake… we ALL have unwanted weeds in our lives.
Jesus acknowledges this hard fact of life. This reality we face in which we plant good seed and sometimes get weeds. And when the weeds show up, figuring out the right thing to do is never easy. This is nothing new… this question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” I’m sure the gardener wondered that. My guess is that whoever wrote this text wondered this as much as we do. The early church that this was written for was probably asking the same question: if we are doing all the right things, why do bad things still happen? Why isn’t our work always successful if we are faithful?
And worse, they probably wondered why there were those among them who weren’t always… fruitful. Weeds. Disciples who weren’t quite as “good” as others. Isn’t that the worst part of it? Not only do we ALL have weeds to deal with, but we judge each other for our weeds. Health problems? Must not be eating right or exercising. Financial problems? Must be lazy or irresponsible. God help you if you’re going through an ugly divorce, struggling with addiction, get laid off, or any other problem you have to face. It was easy for everyone to look at the farmer’s field and say “ugh… look at those weeds. Why did he let it get that bad?”
But I digress…. Again, for better or mostly worse, these weeds come up in our lives and we have to deal with them. Jesus, how is THAT the kingdom of God?
In this story, there is a clue in the gardener’s response that points to an extraordinary promise. The gardener’s best course of action is to just wait, because he knows that in the end, God will sort everything out. There will be weeds, but God will take care of it.
Which doesn’t mean that everything will turn out just fine. Sometimes, we are going to screw up. We are going to try our very best and fail. Sometimes things will go wrong. We will have weeds, and people will judge us for them. But God will sort it out. The promise isn’t that faith prevents hardship. The promise is that fortunately, on God’s terms we are not saved by whether or not we try hard enough and are successful or fail. We are saved by God’s grace alone. And knowing that we have God’s unconditional love despite our weeds (again, God doesn’t judge us based on our weeds)… we are free to live in the moment.
We are free to continue to plant those fields. To dream of abundant harvests in our fields.
Each week, no matter how we fare, we can come back to church on Sunday morning to be reminded that God loves us anyway and promises that, in the end, God will hold all of our wheat and weeds and all of our lives together in love.
This story today tells us what the kingdom of God is like because when those weeds inevitably crop up in your life… when you feel like a failure… there is God, full of grace, who will continue to take care of things anyway. In God’s kingdom, we can trust in the goodness of God despite the weeds.
Yes, it would be easier if there were no weeds. It would be easy if we just got the good wheat, and only experienced bounty and abundance. It would be easier to have faith if it meant we would always be successful and never experience hardship. But here we are today, weeds and all, ready to receive God’s forgiveness and move on.
Come to the table. Hear God’s promise of grace and love. And let God handle sorting out the weeds.