‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ That is a question that has been asked of God since the beginning of time. ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ As we hear the creation story it concludes with the proclamation from God: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31). If all that God created was “very good” where did evil – or the weeds – come from? Because God created everything people ask, did God create evil. Our parable declares that is not so: He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ In explaining the parable Jesus defines who the enemy is: “the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil”
It’s a really difficult thing to understand. We confess that we believe in God the Father Almighty – make of heaven and earth – of all that is – seen and unseen. Does that include what is evil? Does that include the suffering? I think the answer to this difficult question is in the parable where it speaks about the wheat and the weeds mingling together so much that to remove the weeds might harm the wheat. If we go back to the creation account we see the account of Adam and Eve’s disobedience by taking from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The ground which Adam worked would now produce weeds – “the ground is cursed because of you. It will grow thorns and thistles for you. (Genesis 3:17,18) What transpired from that was not a punishment but a reality as God says in Genesis: “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. In the next Chapter it speaks of Adam and Eve’s relationship and says: Adam knew Eve his wife; (Genesis 4:1) “To Know” in this Hebrew understanding is not just a head knowledge but an intimate union of two becoming one – as in Adam and Eve becoming one flesh – bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.
Notice it wasn’t the tree of good and evil – but the tree of “knowledge” of good and evil. Evil, as well as the good God intended, has become one with us – good and evil is now bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh. And the evil, as we see from our parable, comes not from God’s creative act but from the devil’s sinister attack on the world. An attack that God had protected us from when Adam and Eve only knew good. Paul recognises that creation is out of order because of the existence of evil. He knows that evil is not what God intended for his ‘very good’ creation and says: All creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:19-22 NLT)
So Paul understands that evil, including suffering and death, are not part of God’s good order but what the devil introduced through evil And all people and all creation are subjected to it. But Paul keeps our spirits up by reminding us that evil is only part of THIS creation and not the new heaven and new earth that God has prepared for his children and all creation where nothing evil will be allowed to enter (Revelation 21:27) And he says: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. And Jesus, too, is telling us to just be patient.
Just wait until the right time when God will finally deal with the evil in the world. We want God to deal with evil right now but Jesus warns against that saying you may in fact damage the wheat when pulling up the weeds. Let us remember that for us the knowledge of good and evil is also intermingled in our own lives. If God destroyed evil, not one of us would be here!
We have all sinned and sin is evil in God’s sight. To uproot evil now would destroy us. We must wait for the final judgement where God will properly deal with evil, including the evil that exists in us which will be judged by God’s grace through Jesus’ forgiveness.
We need to be careful that we don’t take on a position of moral outrage. We are tempted to rush to judgment and in the process use the same harshness that we find offensive in others. And so we have a warning from St Peter who says:
Do not repay evil with evil. On the contrary, repay evil with good (1 Peter 3:9) We can easily have within our response to evil the very evil we hate. We see evil and want to do something about it; and in doing so we can discover a part of ourselves that we don’t like. Our moral outrage can become oppressive and hurtful. This is a difficult time for the church because of the decline in ethics and morals. People live by their rules “whatever works for you is fine”, “whatever is your truth is the truth. I cannot judge your beliefs” “it’s your body you can do whatever you want to it”. In such an atmosphere of extreme tolerance it becomes hard to take a stance. Whether you agree or disagree with her, look how society responded to Margaret Court’s opinion on marriage. The beauty of Jesus’ parable is that it asks us to take a second look before we rush to judgement. The owner of the wheat field is about how God views the evil mingled in with his very good creation.
It teaches us how to deal with evil in an appropriate spiritual way. When we read of the rush to judgement of the servants we can identify with them. But we need to be cautious because there are consequences to actions in that we may harm the good in dealing with the evil. That doesn’t mean we stand by and do nothing but we leave actions of judgment to God and the final judgment. We are called to be salt and light in the world – not the judging fire. When the people did not welcome Jesus; the disciples James and John saw this, and asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them. But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Luke 9:53-54)
We can pray for those affected by or who cause evil. We can be God’s salt and light in the world to bring good from evil – transforming lives. And remember that what humans intend for evil God can turn into good (Genesis 50:20). That’s what Joseph said to his brothers when they expected him to repay their evil against him with evil. But he didn’t. In fact Paul says that we can deal with evil in a way that brings good but also judgment. He says: Never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” (Romans 12:20). Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.