The Golden Key to Conflict:
The Story of the Wheat and the Weeds
July 20, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
24He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' 28He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' 29But he replied, 'No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"
36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." 37He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man;
38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our topic and our title today is “The Golden Key to Conflict: The Story of the Wheat and the Weeds.” There is a word that I believe is the cornerstone of the gospel that Jesus was sharing with us today, one word that is the golden key to the principle that He was bringing us.
But I want to get to that in a little while. First I want to tell you about what’s going on in the gospel. Jesus is preaching to the folks of His day. He is talking about weeds. He said a certain man went out to plant a crop. He had good quality seeds. He planted them, but in the night, the enemy came and planted among those seeds a different kind of seed, a seed that would grow up into a rather poisonous kind of weed. They didn’t know it at first, but when it became obvious that weeds and wheat were growing together, the servants of the man came to him and said, “How can this be? What’s going on? There are terrible weeds growing amid your wheat. What shall we do, Master? Do you want us to go and weed them out?”
But the master said this: “No. Let them grow together, because if you try to weed them out, the roots of the weeds are now all tangled up with the wheat, and you’re going to pull up the good wheat along with the weeds. So, let them grow together, and in the end, when the harvest comes, we’ll be able to take a look at everything and separate the good from the bad.” That’s what he said; that’s what he told them.
What does this parable mean? Well, to the folks in Jesus’ day, I think that it meant “What shall we do about the people that don’t agree with us? What shall we do about the people who ridicule us? What shall we do about the people who really irritate us? Should we go after them with the sword? Is that what we should do, Jesus?” This was not uncommon thinking for people listening to Jesus in that day. “What should we do? Should we eliminate the negative right now?”
But Jesus’ teaching was this: “No. let them grow together, because we might do too much damage the other way.” Friends, we’ve arrived at the golden key to conflict. It seems to me that at the very root of Jesus’ teaching in this gospel is one beautiful word—tolerance.
Tolerance. Doesn’t the word itself give you a good feeling? Say the word out loud. Doesn’t the word make you relax a bit inside? Tolerance; live and let live. Tolerance; give it a break. Tolerance; take your time, look at all sides. Don’t get too upset right away. I believe that was what Jesus was teaching us.
Now, you and I know that there are such things as no-tolerance issues, of course. You know what they are; I know what they are. But that’s not what I’m talking about this morning. I’m talking about the everyday things that we go through in life where we are tempted to root out all the things that are negative, right away. And Jesus says, “Easy does it. Maybe the thing to do is to give it some slack. Give it some time. And practice tolerance.”
The word itself begins with the letter T, and we could almost in our minds turn that T into a cross, because Jesus was ultimately tolerant, wasn’t He? To the thief crucified next to Him—who knows what kind of life that man led? He asked for forgiveness, and Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He’s tolerant.
Jesus was asked to stone a woman who was caught in an inappropriate situation. And He said, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone. Neither will I condemn thee.” Tolerant. I believe that is what Jesus is calling us to be today.
This week, when you come up against a hard situation, won’t you think of that beautiful word and the principle underneath this gospel? I invite you to consider it two ways, in your dealing with other people and in your dealing with yourself. For instance, there may be situations that you come up against this week that make you very, very angry inside, and that you wish you could change right away. Maybe you should, and maybe it’s time for tolerance.
You might have heard me refer to this incident before, but it happens to me over and over again, so I would like to share it with you one more time. I drive River Road a lot. I call it River Raceway. I cannot believe how fast people drive on that road. I drive the speed limit, and yet I have these really big, aggressive vehicles right on my bumper. What do you do in a case like that? Some people say I should teach them a lesson and go slower. Some people say I should stay the limit; it’s the principle of the thing. I say no. As soon as I can, I pull to the side, flag the person over, and let them go. Maybe they’re in a hurry to get somewhere. I’ve been in a hurry—how about you?—and all of a sudden the people going the limit that we would call law-abiders are now keeping us from where we want to go. Who knows? Let the person go. Let them have their way. It’s not going to hurt us, and we’ll feel better inside. Tolerance; live and let live.
Tolerance is flexibility. You hear a lot in the news these days about leaders accusing other leaders and candidates accusing other candidates of flip-flopping on issues. I say, “What’s the big deal?” I would like a leader who is able to adjust his views intelligently, based on the material available at the moment. Wouldn’t you? Tolerance is related to hope and understanding and mercy, and I believe it’s at the base of what Jesus was telling us in the gospel, the parable of the weeds and the wheat.
Be tolerant with others this week, won’t you? And, oh friend, be tolerant with yourself. My bet is that that is going to be a lot harder than the first one. Do we grant ourselves the mercy and the slack that we so readily give to others? Do you absolutely have to do everything on your to-do list today, before you go to sleep? Work a modest day, then go home and relax and enjoy your family. Be tolerant with yourself. If something you did isn’t absolutely 100% up to your expectations, allow yourself some freedom. Allow yourself some flexibility. Weeds grow along with wheat, but you know what? In the end, God blesses the weeds, and He sees the good in us, and the evil and the causes of sin He sweeps aside.
And so, my friend, this week, let’s observe the principle of tolerance that Jesus talked about in the gospel. Our hearts will be lighter, and our days will be more creative and satisfying and fulfilling, too. And it’s all because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski