Wheat, Weeds and Ministry

Bible Study & Reflection: Being Unfinished: Matthew 13.24-30 The parable of the wheat and the tares

This was developed as part of the final reflections for the Developing Ministry programme run by the West Midlands CMD consortium.

The aim being to provide some biblical wisdom for the ongoing ministry beyond the framework of the programme.

Parable of wheat and tares / weeds

Matthew’s gospel – part of section moving into mid ministry and a rich weaving of developing discipleship and teaching using parables, particularly parables about farmers, sowing seed, growth, harvest – teaching about the kingdom.

Reflection time:

Reflecting on the experience of Developing Ministry, notice any ‘wheat’ that has grown in you and your ministry as a result.

Write a sentence or two – prayer of thanksgiving?

Read your prayer to yourself? Have you any sense of how God is with you as you are with your sentence? Let yourself absorb any awareness of God with you. 

As you listen to this reading – notice anything that encourages you, and anything that challenges you

The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat

24 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” 28 He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” 29 But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’

In small groups: (15 minutes) Share with each other: thanksgivings from the programme, encouragements and challenges from the reading.

Plenary Sharing
Further reflection: Jesus explains the parable

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ 37 He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears[cs] listen!

Unpacking a bit further:
  • Householder = Son of Man
  • Field = World
  • Good Seed = Children of the Kingdom
  • Weeds = Children of the Evil one
  • Harvesters = angels

Who are the slaves? Jesus never says who are the slaves. Are we not (at least to some degree) slaves – desiring to do the will of the householder to produce a good harvest.

What about the world? Thinking about the field as the world – as humans we inhabit both an outer world and an inner world

The outer world is our relationship with the externals of life – our environment, other people, communities, cultures etc

The inner world is our interior life the way we process things internally – our relationship with ourselves, the inner voices we have, often echoes of our early life, some encouraging, some critical.

What do we do with the weeds?’ If we are slaves of the householder, wanting to see a good harvest this is an important question.

Grid: Inner / Outer & Weeds & Wheat

Thinking in your ministerial context  – outer world

  • What situations would you describe as wheat?
  • What situation(s) would you describe as weeds/tares?

Thinking in your personal life – your inner world

  • What situations would you describe as wheat?
  • What situation(s) would you describe as weeds/tares?

Place your answers into this grid.




Inner world


Outer world

Meditation/Reflections on what’s emerging
Looking at your grid – notice your impulse towards the weeds

In what ways do you join with the slaves in saying – lets pull up these weeds?

Hear the householder

 ‘No, don’t pull up the weeds, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest.’

Notice your inner reaction to this: God saying ‘Let both of them grow together until the harvest.’
In what ways are your reactions in harmony with ‘Let both of them grow’ and in disharmony?
  • What help do you need from God to be in more harmony here?
  • What help do you need from God to accept the presence of the particular weeds you have named?
  • What help do you need from God to celebrate more the wheat that is growing?
Write your prayers for your ongoing ministry – in the midst of the inner and outer fields of wheat and weeds.
Closing reflections

Applying this parable to life, invites us into a journey where the ongoing attentiveness as workers in the field, where we find wheat and weeds, is to be attentive to the will of the landlord – that we don’t focus our energy on pulling up the weeds.

This actually needs an ongoing discerning approach, for our human tendency is to be a slave to our idealistic tendencies, to our desires to eliminate the weeds. Our tendency is to listen to the voice within and without that says get rid of the weeds.

The discerning is necessary to help us notice when we hear that voice, and to listen further for the voice that says ‘let them both grow together until the harvest’. Thus to let go of the distraction of attentiveness to the weeds.

This resonates with Peter walking on the water towards Jesus in the storm – he starts to sink when he pays attention to what is under his feet. For him this attention is weed – he was able to walk when his focus was on responding to the call of Jesus to come to him.

Paul, noticed this too. His ‘thorn in the flesh’, he eventually realised didn’t require removal, but acceptance, so that God’s grace could be revealed, not despite his weakness, but in his weakness.

Julian of Norwich discovers this in her agonising in prayer about the presence of sin in the world, and is told ‘it is behovely’ – it had to be, says God. Our sins become badges of glory, places where God’s grace has been needed in us.

I find this tension between an idealistic tendency to eliminate sin from life, and the invitation to let both grow together until the harvest takes me to an inner threshold. It is the threshold between accepting the utter graciousness of God and my need to justify myself, to make myself good enough to be acceptable to God.

Discernment invites us to stand on this threshold and choose the way of Grace.

The Ignatian examen is perhaps the key prayer for this discernment. Inviting a noticing of that which is life giving, God centred, graced in my inner response to life experience and that which does the opposite.

The process of the examen, sits beautifully with the parable, inviting first attention to the wheat, before looking at the weeds. The underlying wisdom being that to do discernment, the key inner orientation needs to be connected with God’s grace. If I start with the weeds my orientation is less likely to have this connection.

The marvel of God’s grace is that the presence of what we identify as weeds can be helpful if not good. Whether they become badges of glory, or we discover that what we thought were weeds are actually wheat! Thank God we didn’t pull them up!

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