Jesus often used parables in teaching his followers.  He used simple, concrete images which were readily understood by his hearers.  Chapter 13 of Matthew’s gospel relates a number of those parables.   Among them is the parable of the wheat and the weeds. The image used in this parable is very effective.  We know how weeds can grow up in   a flowerbed or a garden and how difficult it can be to get rid of them.

Biblical scholars offer some interesting details when commenting on this passage. Those details clarify and strengthen the image.  For example, they tell us the weed, identified as darnel, in the early stages of growth is almost indistinguishable from wheat.  Also their roots are so intertwined it would almost impossible to weed out the darnel without uprooting the wheat.  Those details help our understanding but even without them the message of the parable is clear.

Because the disciples requested an explanation of the parable we are given Jesus’ own interpretation.  The answer Jesus gave can be seen as a formulation of the Christian response to the problem of evil in the world.  Briefly, Jesus’ response can be summed up in this way.  There is a reality beyond this world and in the end things will be sorted out and every one will get what they deserve.  We accept that in faith but we must admit it is not entirely satisfying as a response to the problem of evil.  In fact some people find it very difficult to accept that solution i.e. to have faith in a distant future for which there is no hard evidence while facing present hardships.  Marxists ridicule the Christian response saying Christianity tells people: Work all day, feed on hay.  There’ll be pie in the sky when you die.”

There is another way to look at this parable.  We can think of the wheat and the weeds being in our own heart and reflect on how we deal with that.  It is difficult to be ruthlessly honest when facing evil in ourselves.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn reflected this truth saying: “If only there were completely vile people …committing evil deeds and it were only necessary to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.  But the line dividing. good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.  And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

As Christians we believe the solution to facing evil in the world and in our own hearts is faith in Jesus and in his healing power.