from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 18

Matthew 13: 24-43:  Wheat and Tares

The Story


The Lord spoke other parables that day about the sowing of the seed. Read verses 24-30. The tares are probably "darnel," a grass which looks very much like wheat while it is growing, and if it is threshed out with the wheat the grains are so heavy that they can hardly be separated by winnowing. They are somewhat poisonous. Weeds are sure to spring up in a garden. How much worse it would be if an enemy came and sowed them while we were all asleep.

From what we learned in the other parable, can you guess what the Lord meant by the good seed, and by the man who sowed it? The Lord. says the good seed is His Word, His teachings of what is right and good, which, if we take them to heart, grow and bear the fruit of good, kind, useful deeds. And what can be meant by the bad seed? Suggestions of bad things that come into the mind; and the plants and fruit that spring from them are bad thoughts and actions.

A good act and a bad act may look alike on the outside. A poor woman once kissed the Lord. Judas once kissed Him. Why was one kiss good and the other not? We may do things to help at home, because we want to be useful, or just because we want to get some reward for it. So it is not always easy to know the tares from the wheat in this world. Will it always be so? In the other world, where we all go when we die, the real inward feelings of everyone are plainly seen, nothing that is hidden remaining hid. Then it is plain to everyone who are good and who are evil. The evil of their own accord turn away from the good to live by themselves.

See how the parable teaches us this lesson about the other world. The going to the other world is the harvest. The angels who welcome us there, and in whose presence our real character is seen, are the reapers. The selfish feelings and passions, in which the evil choose to live, are the furnace of fire. The good love of those who go to heaven grows stronger and happier; which is meant by the words, "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (E. 911)

Mustard seeds are very little things, but in Palestine the plants grow large. They are often taller than a man's head as he rides on horseback. Suppose we have learned only a very little and made only a little beginning of heavenly life in this world (and nobody learns very much or makes more than a beginning), do you think from this parable that the little may grow in the other world into a great deal that is good and beautiful? The mustard seed is not only little, but it is sharp to the taste. The beginning that we have made of heavenly life is not very sweet and good. Still, what is really heavenly may grow from it. "If by combat against evils, as sins, man has procured to himself anything spiritual in the world, be it ever so small, he is saved, and his uses grow afterward, like a grain of mustard seed into a tree." (D. L. in A. E. xvii.)

We often read about "unleavened bread." It means bread that is not raised. We usually raise bread with yeast. In old times it was done with a bit of the old dough which was called "leaven." From this the raising spread to all the rest. The unleavened bread was used in the Passover, for the old, sour dough represented what was not good and heavenly. The Lord lets things that are not heavenly come to us sometimes, so that we may ask His help to resist them, and be stronger and more heavenly than we were before. This is why the kingdom of heaven is said to be like leaven. (A. 7906; P. 25)

1. What is the first of the parables spoken by the seaside?

2. Tell me the parable of the wheat and tares. What is meant by the wheat? What by the tares? Do good and evil people live together in the other world as they do in this?

3. Does the little beginning that we make of heavenly life in this world stay just so little always? If we are faithful in a few things here, what will happen by and by?

4. Leaven represents something that is not good. In what way may it sometimes be useful to us to meet things that are not good in the world?

Spiritual Study


The Lord sows the good seed. Who sows the bad seed? "The enemy that sowed them is the devil." This does not mean one particular evil spirit, but all the evil spirits, and all the evil things which put wrong thoughts and feelings into our minds. The tares were sown while men slept; for the bad things creep in whenever we are off our guard.

We have spoken of the separation of the wheat and tares as representing the separation of good and evil persons in the spiritual world. You can learn when and how this takes place, in H. 499-511. Three states are described through which we pass in coming into the other world. First, we awaken: there is still both good and evil in us as there was here. Second, the real inner character comes plainly out. In which of these states can the good and evil be separated? Afterward there is a third state, of instruction, for those who are preparing for heaven.

The separation of the wheat and tares also describes the separation of good and evil things in one person. Good and evil are mixed in us all, while we live in this world. But in the other world those who at heart are evil reject all that is good, and by the help of the angels those who at heart are good reject all that is evil. The tares were bound in bundles. In the light of the other world, all things of character are seen in their true order and relation; all evil things cling together as one.

Two things are mentioned in regard to the evil in the other world: the furnace of fire and the gnashing of teeth. One describes their state of evil feeling; the other the conflict of false and wicked thoughts. Can you tell which is which? (A. 4424, 5071; H. 575)

The Lord had spoken to the people outside in parables. When they went into the house, the disciples asked Him the meaning of the parables. Was there an appropriateness in this?

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