The Wheat and the Tares
In the Lord’s field, there is the wheat and the tares (weeds). Some people are good wheat and are gathered to the Lord. And then there are people who are tares. It isn’t good to be the tares. The tares get gathered into bundles for burning.
So how do we know which people are those bad, destined-for-burning tares?
We don’t, the Lord says. At least, we don’t, not now. For all we know, the rudest, proudest, worldliest person sitting so smug in the next pew might be among the wheat, when the angels come at the end to gather the wheat to heaven. The most despicable sinner might be wheat too. You can’t tell the tares until the end when the angels come, the Lord says.
By the same token, of course, the humblest, most hard-working person, sitting there so meekly in the next pew, might be among the tares. The most admirable and saintly person might turn out to be tares too. We don’t know the wheat any more than we know the tares.
The Lord knows his own. But we don’t. We can judge thoughts, choices, acts, and habits; but we don’t know enough to judge a person’s final resting place when the angels come at Judgment Day.
And so the Lord’s parable about the wheat and the tares can raise a terrible question: what am I? Am I tares, too? If I can’t tell the wheat from the tares, how can I tell whether I am wheat or tares?
The problem with finding an answer to that question is that the question is confused. You are not the judge, not for the other guy and not for yourself either. Nietzche said derisively of Christians, “They don’t even look like the redeemed!” But how would we know what the redeemed look like? (For that matter, how would Nietzsche know?) Our job is not the job of judge, because we are not up for that job.
Our job is to come to Christ and cleave to him. His job is first to save us, tares that we are, and then to judge us the wheat his salvation has made us be.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University