24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. (Matthew 13:24-29; KJV)
In explaining His parable of the weeds, the Lord Jesus Christ said that the field represented the world, and that the good seed are the children of the kingdom, while the tares are the children of the wicked one (Matthew 13:38). The Lord Jesus also alluded to the fact that both the wheat and the tares would be allowed to grow to maturity, until the End of the Age, when they would be harvested and finally separated (Matthew 13:39), with the tares being burned in the fire (Matthew 13:40), and the wheat gathered to the kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:43).
If you are a Christian reading this passage of scripture, you might too-quickly assume that the wheat represents Christians, and that the tares represent non-Christians.
However, it seems to me that both the wheat and tares represent Christians, albeit the wheat represents righteous Christians (Matthew 13:43), while the tares represents Christians who are “stumbling blocks” (Matthew 13:41; see NASB translation) or who cause sin and do evil (Matthew 13:41; NIV translation).
One clue that the tares also represent Christians is that they are “gather[ed] out of his kingdom” (Matthew 13:41; KJV translation), implying that they were originally part of it, but were later extracted from it.
Another clue is based on what we understand scientifically about tares.
Most bible commentators agree that when speaking about tares, the Lord Jesus was likely to have been referring to the darnel (Lolium temulentum) (also, note that the Darby, Weymouth, Word English, and Young’s Literal translations of the bible specifically translate ‘tares’ as ‘darnel’), which is a grassy plant that originates in the Mediterranean region, that grows in the same production zones as wheat, and is considered as a weed. (Interestingly, Roman law prohibited sowing darnel among the wheat of an enemy, which indicates that this conjecture seems realistic.)
(Above: Photo of Lolium temulentum; Source: Wikipedia)
The darnel is a plant that gives the appearance of being like wheat in every way until the final phase of it’s maturity. (Indeed, the similarity between these two plants is so great that in some regions, darnel is referred to as “false wheat” or “bastard wheat”). Ultimately, genuine wheat will produce a sizable head of brown seed, while a darnel will produce a small head of black seed.
The seed of genuine wheat is safe for consumption, but eating the seed of a darnel can lead to tragic consequences. According to the Pulpit Commentary, the effect of eating darnel includes “violent nausea, convulsions, and diarrhoea, which frequently ends in death“.
In other words, what really differentiates the wheat from the darnel or tare is not in its outer apperance (i.e. its stems and leaves), but in its fruit. And the fruit on the plant is precisly what the harvesters are looking out for when deciding whether the entire plant goes into the fire or into the storehouse.
On the suface, a righteous Christian (defined as a believer who practices righteousness; see 1 John 3:7 (NIV): “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.“) and a disobedient one may appear the same (at least in public). They both may attend church regularly, and in church, they sing from the same hymnal.
But God looks beyond the externals and examines the fruit in their lives. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2, NIV)
Dear Believer, what sort of fruit are you bearing in your life? Is it the fruit of the Spirit that you might be bearing: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23; NIV)?
Or might you be bearing the fruitless deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11; NIV), as manifested by one or more of these things in your life: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factionsand envy; drunkenness, orgies (Galatians 5:19-21; NIV)? Please be warned — as the apostle Paul had so warned in the past — “that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21, NASB)