22 August 2008

The Wheat and the Tares... and me

The Wheat and the Tares
By: Martin Bell

The Kingdom of God, Lord, is like so many things. Yet, like nothing at all I have ever known. Perhaps my poor head will never even grasp a single strand from your complex multiplicity of images. But the story of the wheat and tares will always be the hardest for me to understand. Because, at the end, the man burns the tares. And if the tares represent people, Lord, I’ll never understand that. Never.

The Kingdom of God is like so many things. Did you mean for the wheat to represent good people, Lord? And are the tares then desperate and evil men whose willful sins are so bound to them that there is no release – only the fire? And is it somehow a stranger who stands responsible, after all? (I mean ultimately responsible, since it is he who has sown the tares in the first place?) Is that what the story means, Lord? That God created good men? And somehow a stranger brought into being a number of bad men? And that the good men and the bad men must continue to live together side by side until the day of judgment when they will be either rewarded or punished? God, I hope that’s not what the story means. Partly because I am an evil and desperate man. More because I am willfully an evil and desperate man. Heard this way, the story promises me nothing but the fire. Lord, will there be nothing for me but the fire?

The Kingdom of God is like so many things. Yet, like nothing I have ever known. For there is no godliness in my daily walks amidst the meaningless drudgery of my life. There is only disappointment. And, at that, hardly any large-scale, dramatic, or bitter let-down. Only the simple, weary disappointment that is certainly the most disturbing by-product of any real insight. My world has disappointed me. I have disappointed myself. Lord, help me to understand. Could it be the very fabric of existence that itself is permeated by tares?

Dare I hope that all of mankind is represented by the wheat and that it is in explanation of the distortion of life itself that the parable is told? Is it impudent of me to wonder whether or not you are referring to the very stuff of existence as having been somehow corrupted; with the corresponding result that all men find themselves living in a matrix of sin and of desperation and of disappointment? Is it only I, Lord? Or do all men find themselves inextricably in the grasp of meaninglessness and sin? Dare I hope that the tares do not represent people, but rather alienation and despair, the universal condition of existing men? Or have I misunderstood the Kingdom of God?

The Kingdom of God is like so many things. I hope that the parable of the wheat and the tares is about man’s universal condition of sinfulness and alienation. I pray, Lord, that in the end it will be this alienation that is destroyed and the whole of mankind is gathered into the Kingdom. If so, then there is no longer any mystery as to the identity of the stranger who sowed the seeds. He is none other than I, myself. And there comes to my conscious awareness a new appreciation for the old saying that I am my own worst enemy.

We each have sown the tares, and we are all of us virtually strangled by them. If this is what you are telling us, Lord, burn the tares that we have sown in order that mankind may breathe. Burn the tares and gather your children into the Kingdom. I hope that’s what you meant by the parable of the wheat and the tares, Lord. I believe that’s why you meant. I’m betting my life that’s what you meant. But if there tares represent people, Lord, then you are the stranger. Because at the end the man burns the tares. And if the tares represent people, Lord, I’ll never understand that. Never.

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