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Parable of the Tares
Matthew xiii. 24-31
Several generalizations are suggested and a few are plainly taught by this parable. The tares were sown in the night, when people were asleep; so wicked thoughts are sown when people are spiritually asleep. The tares have an injurious influence upon the good grain; so bad thoughts and actions exert an injurious influence upon good thoughts and actions. When harvest time comes, the different growths shall be judged by the fruits that they bear, and hence, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The householder seems patient in allowing the weeds to stand; so God seems patient with the wicked people. The notes ordinarily furnished in connection with this parable state that the tares are a poi. sonous weed; so bad thoughts and actions act like poison in our lives.
These are all truths, however, that, while suggested by the parable, do not express the essence of its thought. They are really subordinate thoughts, and should better be neglected than receive much attention. The plainest truth involved is that a sure reward awaits the good and a sure punishment the evil. And that is the thought that Christ himself presents when he is called upon by the apostles to interpret the parable. However, many a teacher will feel convinced that there is another truth fully involved in the story, by means of which more influence can be exerted upon the child than by this one just named. That is presented through the fact that the householder commands his servants to let the tares stand with the wheat, because the servants cannot remove the one without injuring the other. This, interpreted, means that in this world, though we would often like to banish evil from among us, we do not know enough to separate it from the good, and if we attempted to do so we should make an abundance of mistakes. Hence, we should let both grow together until the harvest, or until the end of the world; and we should not attempt to judge and condemn people, thinking that we see clearly what is good in them and what is bad. The generalization, tersely stated, would be, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” This is the one chosen to be presented here according to the five Formal Steps. The children are thought of as being at least ten years of age, and perhaps somewhat older. The majority of the questions following, although not all, could be given to ten-year-old children.
Aim. Let us see what Christ meant by his story about removing weeds from the wheat.
1. Have you found weeds in a garden of your own? How were they gotten rid of? Why is that so necessary? Is there any danger to the other plants in so doing ? Have you seen weeds growing in grain in the country? Where? In what grains ? Is it more or less dangerous to remove weeds from wheat than from your flowers or vegetables in the garden? Why? What, then, does the farmer do with them?
2 a. Now let us listen to the story that Christ told about removing weeds from the wheat. That was in Palestine, and the particular weeds he mentioned are called tares. They are said to look very much like wheat. (Read Matthew xiii. 24–31.) (If time allows, at least a portion of this parable could be developed instead of read.) The children, after hearing or reading the parable, relate the same probably two or three times, in order to see clearly the concrete situation. Proceeding, we say, Why, then, were the servants not allowed to pull up the tares ? The chief answer is that in so doing they would root up the wheat, because the tares stand so close to the wheat that one could not be pulled up without injury to the other.
2 b. Christ's disciples hardly knew what he meant by this story, and they asked him about it. Do you think you can possibly tell what is meant? Let us
He says that a man having a field of grain may be compared with the kingdom of Heaven. If so, whom might the sower represent? Answer — Christ. And what would the field be? Answer the world. Who would be meant by the good seed? Who by the tares ? When will the harvest be? Who are the reapers ?
3. Are there many tares or wicked people in the world? Give examples, as thieves, murderers, etc. Those servants thought it would be wise to separate the tares from the wheat and gather them up; have you ever had the same feeling about the bad people in the world ? Have you wanted to do away with the evil and leave only the good? Well, now, suppose you were allowed to separate the good from the bad; if this permission were given you, how would you go at it? (1) On which side, the good or the bad, would you place Jacob? You remember he deceived his aged father. (2) What would you do with Moses? Remember that he killed a man. How did God regard him ? (3) On which side would you place Mary Magdalene? What did Christ think of her? (4) Where would you place the Prodigal Son? (5) Would you regard Judas as belonging among the wheat or the tares? You remember he was one of the disciples, and was trusted by them, although he betrayed Christ later. (6) What would you do with the brother of the Prodigal Son ? He stayed at home and worked. (7) What would you do with your friends and acquaintances? Why are you confused in these cases ? Once more, Why would not the householder allow his servants to pull up the tares ? Answer, They were too near the wheat stalks and too much like them to be separated from them. Does that help you any here? How ? Answer, (1) The evil is so near the good that they are both found in
one person; (2) The good and bad often appear so much alike that often we are not able to tell them apart. What conclusion, then, do you reach about our trying to separate the good from the bad? But what if we went ahead and decided to attempt it nevertheless? Wrong!! Who, then, will attend finally to this separation? Why are angels chosen for it rather than men?
4. (1) Which verse in the parable most clearly calls for delay in separating the bad from the good ? Look them through to see.
“Let both grow together until the harvest.” Are you convinced that this applies as much to good and bad people as to wheat and tares ?
(2) Do you call to mind another verse that brings to mind a similar thought? You have heard it often. It begins with the word judge. Matthew vii. 1. Judge not. Let us learn these two verses, then, and hereafter when the parable of the tares is called for, you may state its chief thought for us by these two verses.
5. (1) At the close of this talk, Christ said, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Why do you think he said that? What did he want them to hear ?
(2) Is it true that people have failed in times past to listen to this teaching ? What examples from history show this ? St. Bartholomew's massacre, witchcraft, the Jews' treatment of Christ, etc.