I am sure you are familiar with it, if you have a garden or a balcony. You have some plants or seedlings growing, and before you know it, there is some grass or some weeds growing as well, sometimes even more aggressively than what you planted yourself. And most of the time we have no idea where these weeds came from.

I can see a parallel with many aspects of our life, and the life of our communities. Often we are just going about our business, when suddenly, out of nowhere, complications arise. It could be anything from a new pandemic to clashing opinions among Christians. It could be a new wave of racism, the violence of war, a political scandal or some financial injustice. The weeds could be inside us, or in others (or so we think), or in circumstances which have changed for the worse. In all these cases we are bound to have two questions: a) where did these things come from; and b) how do we get rid of them as quickly as possible?
Let’s consider these two questions for a moment, using the parable we have just read.

But first, a word about the weeds. The Bible doesn’t say that good and evil are illusions. There are definitely things and thoughts which are undesirable and harmful. The servants immediately recognized that something was wrong when they looked over the fields. Church father Augustine considered this ability as evidence that we were created in the image of God. Even though no one can avoid sin and failure, we are able to reflect on our shortcomings. This rising above ourselves we call our conscience.

A dark origin

I believe that in this parable, we are both the plants and the servants.
But no-one, not even our higher faculties, the servants, could explain where the weeds came from. According to the story, the bad seeds were sown by some enemy while everyone was sleeping. This sleep may well represent our lack of awareness. It is an important reason why we can’t always prevent mistakes. To give one small example. Once, it was perfectly acceptable to say that all lives matter. But then a number of people started to use this phrase to downplay the suffering of black people. So, language changed and the same sentence now has two very different meanings. Now that I am aware of this, I can avoid hurting someone, but I am bound to be clumsy or insensitive some other time. It is an illusion that we would be able to prevent all nastiness, whether it is in ourselves or in others. Surprisingly, neither the plants nor the servants in the parable are blamed, at least not for the invisible beginnings of evil. It confirms that God has already taken into account that we are not perfect.


Now for the second question. How do we get rid of those weeds as quickly as possible? You would think that the servants, having been forgiven for not catching the enemy in the act of corrupting the field, would at least have to remove the weeds, a.s.a.p. And that is also what they want to do. They are thinking in terms of a quick fix. If the weeds represent bad thoughts or actions, we want to make rules against them and cast everyone out who does not conform, or at least silence them. I think this represents our tendency to control, to genetically modify, to police and to expect our salvation from tools and technology, from censorship and looking down on caution. We have this tendency to destroy, whether it comes to weeds, viruses, heresies or different views. With the best of intentions (or so it seems) we often implements policies with severe side-effects. The way we have been fighting Covid-19, has many dangerous sides to it, as well. Imagine the dangers when we fight other people and complete communities and countries, because we feel threatened.

Not idle

Now I don’t think this parable wants us to be completely idle and agree with everyone. We need to go back to the first sentence. “The kingdom of God is like”. What it is saying is that there is currently no pure form of the kingdom of God. There are always weeds. We cannot attain perfection, at least not by eradicating everything that does not fit in our ideal view of the world. That attitude will only cause damage to God’s harvest. It will also damage ourselves, as we are the servants as well as the plants. Jesus wanted us to consider the option of waiting. Waiting at least until any cleansing we deem necessary can be done without further damage to the good plants, without damage to other people and our own souls. But how are we to know what is safe and when? Well, that is the whole point: perhaps in many cases we just don’t know. And we would do well to admit it. Can we untangle our own thoughts? If not, how can we judge other people’s inner motives? That may be why, in the parable, the reapers are charged with the separating, and not the servants. In verse 41 Jesus explains that the reapers are the angels.
So what is left for us to do as plants or servants? Plenty. We can absorb and share the nutrients that God provides, both the literal food and water and the spiritual food and water. Using the wisdom in this parable we can think twice before resorting to blunt measures. We can use technology and medicine without worshipping them as idols and saviours.


Finally, our text provides some profound encouragement. The householder, which is Jesus, is the sower of the good seeds, and they bring forth: children of light. Remember how creation was called good by God the Father? But this is a new creation, which cannot be killed by the weeds. Jesus promises that those He made righteous, will ultimately shine like the sun. Verse 41 even promises an end to “all causes of sin”. Something that was not possible to achieve with human wisdom and interventions, will be achieved by divine mercy and persistence.
So may we put our trust in God to accomplish this mysterious work for us and in us. Sometimes all God needs from us is that our egos take a step back and that we focus on His grace and on learning from Him. Amen.


Lord, You have called us to be your people,
to follow where you lead, be obedient to your word
and bring your Good News wherever we might go.
Forgive the impatience and lack of faith which causes us to stumble;
when we prefer our way to yours.
Draw us back into your arms, as prodigals to their Father
and grant us patience and perseverance in our journeying with you.
Help all those who are persecuted, or sick, or despairing.
May they find new hope in You, and new support, however imperfect.
May we be there when our neighbour needs us.
In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.