Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
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?
He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Matthew 13: 24-30
In any farming community, farmers being human, feuds will sometimes grow up between farmers and their families. The Romans understood this, and so they had a law forbidding anyone from sowing tares, darnel, in a wheat field. A ryegrass, darnel is indistinguishable from wheat in the early stages of development and only when they are both mature can wheat be readily distinguishable from tares. It takes little imagination to see Jesus as a boy, working in the carpenter shop of Saint Joseph, and hearing one of the farming clients of Joseph ranting about how an unknown enemy of his had ruined his wheat field by planting darnel in it.
Christ has shaped out of this unpleasant example of rural life, a parable which says much about the human condition. It would save time if we all wore signs saying “good”, “evil”, “both”, “making up my mind”, but we do not. Until revealed by deeds, the side chosen by each of us each day remains a deep secret, often to the person making the daily choice, sense the capacity of man to deceive himself is bottomless. But God knows, and ultimately we each reap the harvest of our deeds. So with us individually, so our societies, our political institutions, our churches and all the other manifold ways in which we humans gather together. Enough wrong choices and the tares are in charge, lording it over the wheat. Saint Augustine noted this long ago:
O you Christians, whose lives are good, you sigh and groan as being few among many, few among very many. The winter will pass away, the summer will come; lo! The harvest will soon be here. The angels will come who can make the separation, and who cannot make mistakes. We in this time present are like those servants of whom it was said,
Will You that we go and gather them up? for we were wishing, if it might be so, that no evil ones should remain among the good. But it has been told us,
Let both grow together until the harvest. Why? For you are such as may be deceived. Hear finally;
Lest while you gather up the tares, you root up also the wheat with them. What good are you doing? Will ye by your eagerness make a waste of My harvest? The reapers will come, and who the reapers are He has explained,
And the reapers are the angels. We are but men, the reapers are the angels. We too indeed, if we finish our course, shall be equal to the angels of God; but now when we chafe against the wicked, we are as yet but men. And we ought now to give ear to the words,
Wherefore let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. For do ye think, my Brethren, that these tares we read of do not get up into this seat? Think ye that they are all below, and none above up here? God grant we may not be so.
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you. I tell you of a truth, my Beloved, even in these high seats there is both wheat, and tares, and among the laity there is wheat, and tares. Let the good tolerate the bad; let the bad change themselves, and imitate the good. Let us all, if it may be so, attain to God; let us all through His mercy escape the evil of this world. Let us seek after good days, for we are now in evil days; but in the evil days let us not blaspheme, that so we may be able to arrive at the good days.