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Weeds Among the Wheat

By Canon Mike D Williams

Weeds get a bad press!

Dandelions are up there among those plants you don’t wish to see in your garden. Walking my dog through the local lanes after all the rain is a journey of discovery. Most of the plants we describe as weeds in our gardens are also a haven for nature when they grow in hedgerows and verges. Watching BBC Countryfile’s ‘Plant Britain’ programme, I was struck by the enthusiasm of a young man for dandelions. The flower of a dandelion is, apparently, ideal for certain insects and rather than cut all our grass short and destroy the dandelions we should leave room in our gardens for them to grow and allow nature to flourish.

Weeds get a bad press in the Bible too.

Jesus employs seven parables (in St Matthew’s account) to explain the mystery of the Kingdom of God, many relating to seeds and soil. The parable in Matthew 13.24ff tells of the good seed sown in the field and then, at night, while everyone was asleep, along came an enemy who sowed weeds among the wheat. When the weeds are discovered the workers ask the master if they should gather them up? The answer is that to do so would uproot the wheat. It will be at harvest time that the weeds will be separated from the wheat and burnt.

Jesus rarely explains his parables, but this one he does. The field is the world; the good seed, the children of the kingdom; and the devil is blamed for sowing the weeds. No wonder weeds get a bad press!

The Jesuit, Thomas Green, suggests that the parable refers to the coexistence of good and evil in this life. Green extends the meaning by arguing that the field might be the soul of the individual believer, where both the good and bad coexist. He argues that some of our instinctual and involuntary weaknesses are likely to remain with us throughout life. They coexist to keep us humble and reliant on the Lord for his grace and power. The weeds can choke the wheat and destroy the harvest.

Yet for those whose lives are lived by discerning love, says Green, who are alert and sensitive to the dangers and values of weeds, their very presence and challenge can bring a more fruitful harvest. In a similar way, treasuring the weeds in our garden will allow a greater diversity of natural life.