The wheat and the darnel
by Tilly Dillehay Editor
At the risk of pulling a Jack McCall, I’m in the mood to wax poetic about nature. (We love you, Jack.)
Last Sunday at church, I heard a great Sunday school lesson on the parable of the wheat and the tares. During this lesson, I learned a very simple piece of trivia that changed the way I look at one of the parables forever.
You’ve heard this short parable before, probably—and if you were like me, always had a vague, old-fashioned impression of what a ‘tare’ is. It’s a very King James Version word. In newer versions it’s usually translated ‘weed’.
Let me recap the parable for you:
In the parable (Matt. 13:24-30), Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a field. The owner plants wheat in the field, but at night, while his men are sleeping, an enemy comes and plants ‘tares’. His servants ask him if they should go ahead and pull up the tares, but he tells them to wait, because if the tares are pulled, the wheat will come up with it. At the harvest time, they will pull it all up together and separate it. Then they can store the wheat and burn the rest.
Jesus explains the parable later to his confused disciples, saying that the wheat represents the “sons of the kingdom” and the weeds are the “sons of the evil one,” and the one who sows the good seed is Jesus himself. The harvest, he says, is the end of the age, when these two groups of people will finally be separated. Until then, they grow side by side.
I’ve heard this story before, but when it was presented on Sunday, the speaker explained something to us that I’d never known before. The ‘weeds’ or ‘tares’ mentioned in this parable probably refer to a specific plant, a plant I’ve never heard of.
It’s called a bearded darnel. Darnel looks exactly like wheat . The only problem is—it isn’t wheat. It’s poisonous.
It has the same green stalk and the same pods that grow up on the end. You can’t tell them apart until harvest time. Then, when you open up those pods, you find that the wheat plants hold grains of wheat, and the darnel plants hold black, unusable grains.
This just blew my mind, frankly.
The parable just became about ten times better in my mind—all because I didn’t know what a darnel plant was until Sunday.
In my fanciful moments, things like this make me wonder about the creation process. What if God created that particular plant specifically for this purpose? What if the main role of this plant was to be available for Jesus… when he was setting up a story… to illustrate an important truth… so that slow people like you and me and the disciples could get our minds around it?
I can’t imagine what else bearded darnel is good for.
I’ve felt this way many times about creation. On the one hand, things like the wheat plant, and all the complex things that happen when the wheat plant germinates and grows—these are good just because. They are beautiful and tasty and interesting and creative, and reflections of the God that dreamed them up.
But on the other hand, these physical things also serve another purpose—they provide pictures of spiritual truths. They are physical metaphors for spiritual ideas.
Think about the entire process of farming. I’ve often thought that those who grow up around farming have an advantage to understanding the Bible that city slickers don’t have. There are so many ideas in the Bible that the principles of farming help to illustrate.
Planting, watering, growth: Jesus uses this to illustrate the planting of the gospel in human hearts. The fact that when a seed is planted, a death has to occur before the new life can come: the death of God’s son brought new meaning to something that farmers have understood for millennium.
Fishermen have it good, too—they can understand what Jesus means when he talks about ‘fishing for men’—they know about the hours of working and waiting, the wisdom needed to pick your bait, to know the fish and pick the right spot.
The human body offers all kinds of spiritual insight. Our bodies will slow down and break down if we don’t train them and exercise them. This didn’t have to be the case—we could have been created without the need for exercise. Paul the Apostle later uses this inherent metaphor, saying that we need to train our spiritual selves just like our bodies (with much greater payoff).
We could also have been created without the need for food or water. But then we’d have missed out on word-pictures like “I am the bread of life” and “he who drinks of the water I give them will never thirst again.”
I don’t mean to imply that somehow the physical world is more “real” than the spiritual, as if God had no purpose for Earth except as a kind of Matrix by which he could project a spiritual reality. The physical world is good, and it is certainly real. The spiritual world is just as real.
I just mean that it’s clear God did some really incredible multi-tasking when he made it all.
But what else would you expect, I suppose, from the God of the universe?
Commentscomments powered by Disqus
Local Gas Prices