“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’””
It wasn’t on purpose.
(Pulling up poppies, I mean.)
The task was clear – get rid of the nasty sow thistle invading the poppy patch.
The application, not so much. See, it’s really really hard to pull sow thistle out under any circumstances. It breaks off. It digs in its heels and I swear it pulls back. It is just nasty.
But pulling it in the middle of a thick poppy patch?
It’s downright impossible not to pull a few poppies in the process, no matter how careful you may be.
I’ve tried chopping it off with a mini hoe. I’ve tried reaching in ninja style with a variety of hand tools. I’ve tried pulling it with gloves by hand, nice and slow.
Still, despite all precautions, out came beautiful poppies.
To get all the nasty, I had to sacrifice the beautiful.
And it got me thinking about this parable of Jesus in Mathew 13.
People ask me all the time how God can allow such bad things to happen. And bad things do happen. All the time. Over and over, since time immemorial, injustice and abuse and horror and evil have done their thing and hurt innocent people.
There is no easy answer to the problem of evil. I’d be lying if I told you there was. But I think one facet of the complex problem of evil can be found in this little gem of a story Jesus told to illustrate what the Kingdom of God is like.
In the story, the farmer planted good seed. But in the night, enemies came and planted weeds. When the crop started to grow, the workers noticed right away that there was a problem. They wanted to get in there and set things straight, root out the trouble, and move on with harvest.
But the farmer knew that pulling out the weeds while the wheat was tender would cause too much damage to the innocent.
For the sake of the good plants growing, the farmer would leave those weeds and deal with them later, when the wheat had matured.
I know how hard it was not to pull up poppies with the sow thistle.
It seems that God sometimes allows the presence of enemies in order to protect the growth of His children. Strange as it may seem, allowing the presence of the ‘weeds’ was grace.
A way of protecting the farmer’s (God’s) long term investment in his crop (us).
I know I’ve sure questioned the Farmer’s strategy. I’ve mourned and railed against the plan for what has been allowed in my life. But I have to walk forward in faith knowing that the end game is more important than temporary setbacks.
See, it’s not the beauty of the leaves, the symmetry of the roots, the timing of the flowering, the pollination process, or the ripening of the grain.
It’s the harvest that counts.
God knows exactly what you need to achieve the best potential for the kingdom. He knows when you need encouragement or discipline or drought or bounty. And all these things – the trials as well as the triumphs – are being crafted into a harvest that is beyond your wildest imagination!
So on we go. We navigate the tricky patches where it feels like enemies are on all sides.
And we walk forward by faith, knowing that our harvest will be rich and bountiful and pure as we grow and develop even in the presence of difficult circumstances.
And there is a promise attached.
These ‘weeds’ get their own. They get pulled. And burned. God isn’t going to let the bad guys off scot free. He is just waiting – for your sake- to do the pulling so you don’t get pulled up in the process.
Grow despite the presence of weeds with me?
Father, it isn’t easy to wrestle with the issues of injustice and evil. We know they are inevitable in a fallen world but it is still difficult to deal with. Help us to grow in our understanding of how You are working to bring about a triumphant harvest in us and protect us as we grow. Amen.