Dr. J. N. Manokaran
Parable of wheat and Tares
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “An enemy did this," he replied.
The servants asked him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?"
29 “No," he answered, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them". 30 "Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels".
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.
41 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. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13: 24-30 and 36-43)
This parable provides great insights of God’s dealing with the world. Some scholars apply this parable to the Church context and others would prefer to apply to the whole world. The master and owner of the field decides to sow wheat in his field. After the wheat is sown, the enemy subtly comes in the night and sows weeds in the same field. The weed could be darnel that appears like wheat until it matures. Satan comes with the intention to kill and destroy. (John 10:10) Without a positive agenda, Satan wants to wreck the world.
Wheat and Weeds
Wheat is for people who are of and for the Kingdom of God. Weed does not belong to the Kingdom of God. Satan always like to be a counterfeit or substitute and deviate people from God, The Truth and His Kingdom. For that, Satan has to use a variety of methods that includes false spirituality. The pseudo-spirituality looks like spirituality, however, it is not. It appeals to the simple, depraved and vulnerable people. Hence, there are so many variety of spirituality and religions.
Purpose of Religion
The purpose of religions created by Satan is to keep people away from the Truth and his slaves. The vulnerable people start to worship someone that is invisible or visible through a statue or an ancestor or superior power or guru or mahatma. The worship of God is also demanded along with a sense of loyalty and obedience. Disobedience means, there is no salvation. Loyalty is based on blind faith rather than Truth. For them faith is important and Truth is dispensable. This kind of worship and loyalty gives them pseudo meaning for life and purpose of their existence. They self-deceive thinking that they live for a cause and make sincere commitment.
Weeds Roots are Inter Mingled
The servants of master are perturbed in the Parable the Lord taught us. They suggest that they could go in and pull off the weeds. However, the master forbids that. Pulling off is not an option as the weeds also have roots and they are intertwined with the roots of wheat. Pulling weeds would unintentionally uproot the wheat plants also. Wheat and weed have to co-exist until the Day of Judgement.
There are many instances, people quote texts from the Bible stating that God of the Bible is intolerant, Jews were intolerant and the Christians were and are intolerant.
Bible and Tolerance
Without understanding God, his attributes and relationship with humanity, it is impossible to know the Truth about God. In fact, some people think God as a Global Dictator without norms, rules or ethics. This is a myth promoted by people who do not like to be under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Here are some attributes that should be understood to have right perspective about tolerance.
1. Sovereign Rule of God: God is the creator and the only creator. As the creator he has all authority over the world, affairs of the world, people, systems, structures, rules, regulations, laws. That means he is the Sovereign God and all the creation are under his rulership.
2. God and Nations: God allowed nations to emerge in the context of Babel, where human rebellion brought God’s judgement. The one language for the whole world was replaced by multiple languages through the confusion of languages. The people were scattered and God gave them each a portion of the world with definite borders. The children of Israel when they were delivered from Egyptian captivity, were not allowed to invade Edom. The nation of Edom did not allow Israel to pass through, but came to fight. Israelites took another route and continued their journey. (Numbers 20:14-21) Nations cannot simply violate the borders of other nations.
3. God as Judge of Nations: God also judges nations for their sins. The judgments were not one and the same. There are some insights in the Bible that provides the basis for God’s judgement. God executed judgement on gods of Egypt and also the nation of Egypt. (Exodus 12:12 and Numbers 33:4) The ten plagues are judgements on the ten gods of Egypt. The reason for judgement was that the Egyptians forgot their benefactor Joseph and put the children of Israel under task masters and made them slaves. God said to Abraham: “But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:14-16) Is capital punishment violation of the principle of tolerance? A person who executes capital punishment on a person (a criminal for rape or sedition or terrorism or heinous crimes), given by an impartial judicial system is he a murderer? The person happens to be a tool or instrument in the hands of the Government to execute judgement and establish righteousness. In the same way, God’s Government could execute judgement using a nation. Nazism was dangerous to humanity and Hitler had to be dealt with. The result was Second World War.
4. God’s methods of judgement: The methods of Judgement of God are also varied. For the Egyptians it was plagues that resulted in ruined economy and death. The Amorites and others were exterminated. Sodom and Gomorrah, the wicked cities were destroyed by fire and brimstone. Even the Nation of Israel was not spared. To the Nation of Israel Lord said: “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments-sword and famine and wild beasts and plague - to kill its men and their animals!” (Ezekiel 14:21)Invading army, natural disasters like famine or flood or drought or earthquake; environmental disaster that allows animals to invade human inhabitations are also God’s methods of judgement. God will send a distant nation against Israel. (Jeremiah 5:15) Habakkuk was perplexed when the Lord said: “ I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own (Habakkuk 1:6). God uses the ruthlessness and wickedness of Babylonians as his instrument of judgement on the earth and on the nation of Israel. God judged the world by sending flood that sank the whole earth during the times of Noah (Genesis 6).
5. Covenant Honouring God: The nations cannot break covenants or treaties at will. “Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood,” (Amos 1:9) Joshua unwittingly entered into a covenant with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9) They were allowed to live within the community of Israel. King Saul violated the covenant and killed the Gibeonites in large numbers. David had to seek restitution for the blunder of Saul. (II Samuel 21:1-14) Though the covenant was made without understanding the Will of God by Joshua, God expected the Nation of Israel to honour the covenant.
Religious Tolerance in Contemporary Context
With a basic understanding of the biblical principles, religious tolerance should be approached. some important aspects are as under:-
1. Respect for Free will: gift of God: God has gifted humans with the Free Will. Each and every person has the right to make choices and decisions. Hence, the rich young man who desperately wanted Eternal Life, chose not to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Millions have decided not to become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ even when they were convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Saviour. They will stand before God when He Judges the whole world.
2. Proclamation without coercion or threat: The proclamation of the Gospel is without coercion or threat. The people are not required to make decisions under the shadow of gun. There should not be any political, social, economic or emotional threats for a person to make decision to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Proclamation without violence: A nation should not be invaded to make the whole nation as Christian. Such military or terror violence is not permitted.
Religious Tolerance in a Nation
Religious tolerance in a nation should be based on Freedom for worship and propagation. The worship of God should be within the decent limits, not creating nuisance to neighbours, community or society. Propagation should be with sensitivity and humility. The freedom given to us is for us not to offend others, but to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. It is better to preach more about Lord Jesus Christ rather than deride other religions.
Religious tolerance means equal rights to all citizens. There are countries where the citizens who practice different religions are given the status of Second class citizens. Some countries extract extra taxes to guarantee safety of the people who belong to other religion.
As long as the world exists, until the Lord comes in Glory, there would be counterfeit religious, pseudo spirituality, distorted gospels, false Messiahs, gurus…etc. Though they are blind leading the blind, we are not called to uproot the weeds. The common people should be seen as victims, ignorant, slaves who are like sheep without the Shepherd. The Church is the community of shepherds called to serve the whole world.