Parables of Jesus: The Wheat & The Weeds

I know the forecast is calling for frigid temperatures and frosty condition this week, but I’m so thankful for the brief preview of spring we had last week. Two days of 50o temps was such a welcome reprieve from the snow and ice we’ve been having. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for spring to arrive. Spring brings so much warmth and color and new life. Flowers start budding, grass turns green again, blue skies and rainbow fill the air. One of the big things Ashley is looking forward to this Spring is planting a new garden. There’s something about feeling the dirt between her fingers, and the hope of seeds turning into five-foot tall tomato plants, or a high-bearing pepper plant that she finds enticing. To me, gardening just sounds like a lot of work. Hoeing, tilling, planting, fending off the bugs that think your bean plants were planted just for them, and of course the endless weeding that goes along with it.

I don’t know if Jesus ever had a garden, but a lot of his parables have to do with seeds and soil. Apparently he wasn’t very fond of weeds either, as evidenced by the parable of the wheat and the weeds. He tells this story in Matthew 13 along with several other parables about planting and harvesting. Here’s what he says:


“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.

“The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ ‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. ‘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.’” (Matthew 13:24-30)


Jesus goes on to explain that he, himself, is the farmer in this story, his workers are heaven’s angels, and the enemy that infiltrates his field is the “evil one” or devil. But it’s the weeds that I want to focus on today. The wheat represents believers who have been born again into God’s Kingdom. But the weeds represent everyone else—the run-of-the-mile heathen, the internet infidel, your next-door neighbor, you sweet Aunt Mable, anyone who hasn’t been born again into God’s Kingdom.

Like the weeds in the parable, unsaved souls tend to share certain characteristics. So I’d like to highlight three features of the weeds in this parable.




First, the weeds are deceptive because they can be easily confused for wheat. It’s hard to tell the difference. In fact, most scholars believe that Jesus was describing a specific type of weed known as Bearded Darnel. Darnel typically flourishes in the same fields as wheat and the similarity between these two plants is so great that in some regions darnel is referred to as “false wheat.” The wheat and the weed are almost indistinguishable until the ear appears.

It reminds me of a story my mom shared with me about her sister-in-law, Maura. She and her husband had just bought their first house and Maura was especially excited about having a garden of her own. There was already a garden in the backyard, but the house had sat empty so long that the garden was overrun with weeds. So Maura grabbed her gloves, dug her hands into the dirt, and started ripping out weeds fast and furious. She’d been at it for a couple of hours when her next-door neighbor comes running out of the house in a panic. Apparently the garden belonged to her neighbor and those weren’t weeds; rather she pulled up an entire patch of asparagus.

If the workers in the field started pulling weeds, they probably would have had about as much luck as aunt Maura. Later, Jesus explains to his disciples: “The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one” (Matthew 13:37). The similarity between the wheat and weeds, however, is reminder that we can’t always tell the difference. The world is filled with believers and unbelievers—people who are saved and people who are lost. But you and I aren’t always in a position to tell which is which.

A few chapters earlier, Jesus said, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you.’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NLT).

On the surface, these folks look and act like Christians. They’re doing the Lord’s work. They not only show up for church on Sunday morning, but they serve communion and teach Sunday School. They’re small-group leaders. They speak Chrisitanese. They listen to Christian radio and wear Christian t-shirts. They have little Jesus-fish on the bumpers of their cars and plaque on their desks that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” They talk the talk and walk the walk. But Jesus will turn them away, saying, “I never knew you.”

Listen: Don’t assume that you are the wheat!

These folks in Matthew 7 seemed genuinely surprised that they weren’t accepted into heaven. They talked a lot about all the stuff they did for Jesus. But, do you know what they didn’t talk about? They didn’t say, “I made a mess of my life and I realized how desperately I need a savoir. That’s when I put all of faith and hope in you, Jesus.” The difference between a believer and a “make-believer” isn’t something you can see. It’s something that happens in the heart. People look at the outward appearance, but Jesus looks at the heart. The heart reveals what you’re really made of.

First, weeds are deceiving. Furthermore, weeds are damaging.




In the parable, when the workers asked the farmer if they should pull up the weeds, he replies, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest” (Matthew 13:29-30 ESV).

The farmer didn’t want his workers pulling up the weeds because they looked too similar to the wheat and he didn’t want any of the wheat to be damaged in the process. It may also be that the roots from the weeds entangled themselves in the wheat roots and so even if you pulled the right plants, the wheat could still be damaged.

Of course, we don’t need a parable to tell us that weeds are bad. If you tend a garden, your first instinct upon seeing a weed is probably the same as the workers in the parable—pull it out. Weeds have very invasive root systems that quickly take over the surrounding earth, stealing vital nutrients and water from the other plants.

The same thing happens in our spiritual lives if we’re always surrounded with weedy people. The apostle Paul put it this way: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1Corinthians 15:33). It’s just like your mom used to tell you: “one rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch!” That principle holds true for our spiritual lives as well. The world is filled with both believers and unbelievers, Christians and non-Christian. We live next door to each other. We work in the same offices. We work out side-by-side in the gym. In some cases, we may even live under the same roof. As Christians we need to exercise discernment in those relationships.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any association with people who are not Christians. Just the opposite is true. It’s important that we have authentic, loving relationships with unbelievers so that we can share God’s love with them and hopefully lead them to Jesus. At the same time, however, we need to be cautious. The people you surround yourself with, whether Christians or non-Christians, have the potential to influence your life in a positive, loving and godly way or in a negative, immoral and ungodly way.

Anybody—whether they call themselves a Christian or not—who influences you to live or act contrary to your faith and principles is a weed. And they can damage your relationship with God and your testimony in the world.

Several decades ago, around the turn of the century, some musicians noticed that all the errand boys in a certain part of London all whistled out of tune as they rode around on their bicycles making their deliveries. After a while, they discovered that the reason for their poor pitch was that the bells of Westminster were slightly out of tune. The errand boys had unconsciously copied their pitch. In the same way, we tend to think and act like the people with whom we surround ourselves. If you spend your time with negative, unbelieving, or immoral people—even the ones who call themselves Christians—your faith and spiritual life with will be damaged.

So weeds are deceptive, weeds are damaging, and eventually weeds are destroyed.



The parable ends with weeds being bundled and burned while the wheat is carried gleefully into the farmer’s barn—a happy ending, unless you’re a weed. Jesus explains this part of the parable, saying, “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:40-42 NIV). These verses escort us to the most somber spiritual reality: hell.

No topic stirs greater resistance. According to recent polls, some 81% of adult Americans believe in heaven, and 80% expect to go there when they die. By comparison, 61% believe in hell, but less than 1% think it’s likely they will go there. In other words, a slight majority of Americans still believe hell exists, but they don’t take it seriously. Several years ago, the Los Angeles Times featured a front-page article titled “Hold the Fire and Brimstone,” pointing out that many seeker-sensitive evangelical church leaders were purposely omitting the theme of divine retribution. It’s easy to understand why. Scripture’s writers dipped pens in gloomy ink to describe the Day of Judgment. Any person who discusses it glibly or proclaims it gleefully has failed to ponder it deeply. Hell is a hideous topic. And, I think, one that we’ve grossly misunderstood.

Jesus spoke of hell, or at least final judgment, often. Two-thirds of his parables relate to resurrection and judgment. Jesus wasn’t cruel or capricious, but he was blunt. He said things like: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28 NIV). In a pint-sized parable about paths, Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-15 NIV).

Even the most famous verse in the Bible contains a one-word picture of hell: perish. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). In hell, everything perishes. Hope perishes. Happiness perishes. Even the bodies and souls of God-deniers perish. Like weeds in a fiery furnace, hell consumes everything that enters it. Using a similar simile, the last Old Testament prophet described the final day of darkness in these words: “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all” (Malachi 4:1 NLT). Hell is a horrible reality, but a reality nonetheless and one we ought to avoid at all costs.




The bad news is: weeds are deceptive, damaging, and ultimately destroyed. But the good news is: weeds don’t have to be weeds. In the agricultural world, weeds never transform into wheat. That sort of magical metamorphosis is unheard of in horticulture. But in the spiritual world, it happens every day. The Bible says that God doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed, but for everyone to come to repentance. In other words, God longs for every weed to become wheat. If you will accept God’s invitation, believe and receive Jesus, he will make you permanent part of his eternal garden.




This morning I want to invite you to examine your own heart to see whether you’re a weed or wheat. And take inventory of your non-Christian friends whose eternal destinies end not in heaven’s barn, but in hell’s furnace. Consider sharing Jesus with them, or just inviting them to church. Then we can all sing together, “When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”

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