Wheat or Darnel?
Matthew 13.30 Let the wheat and the darnel both grow together
There is a well-known saying, "United we stand,
divided we fall." And although this expression is usually taken up by
specific groups or political parties, many see it as the only eventual
path for humanity to take.
Perhaps one day, in the far future, there will be one world government,
one currency, even one language. However, in our present time any attempts
to make us "one" seem doomed to failure. Communism, for example, with its
ideal of fair and equal shares for all, failed because communists are
human like the rest of us, with hopes of wealth and freedom, and because
amongst humans there will always be a buyer and a seller, an employer and
Esperanto, a language to cross barriers and cultures, has never really
taken off because nationality (and our native tongue) gives a sense of
identity to people, and is not easily given up.
The United Nations is rather ineffectual because nations agree in
principle to acceptable codes of conduct, but can never quite agree what
they should be especially when they happen to be in conflict with national
interest. So the list goes on, with our common humanity constantly being
the stumbling block to truly being a "common humanity".
The religious sphere, of course, is no better, with schisms breaking
out at every opportunity, and with each one believing they are just a
little nearer to God than their neighbour (or in some cases, much nearer).
This is why it is good to see Psalm 139 listed in toda's reading.
Psalm 139 must rank as one of the most intimate and yet universal pieces
of religious writing.
It reminds us, rather bluntly, that under God we are all one anyway.
None of us can get away from his presence. We cannot escape his influence
even if we cross the seas, or rise to heaven or descend to hell. God knows
no political or national boundaries. All life is one under God. We really
cannot get away from God, because he is part-and-parcel of our very
makeup, of life itself. Or to quote Genesis, we are made in his image, and
as Paul says, we "live, move, and have our being" in him.
As far as the psalmist is concerned, God knows our every thought,
something that the author obviously finds both wonderful and fearful. So
Yet despite being made in his image, we are not robots, and we have
freewill to do as we please. Presumably this is why Jesus talks of the
"wheat and the darnel" in Matthew's gospel and of the separation that is
to come between the righteous and the unrighteous. We have the paradox of
the ever present, all seeing and knowing God who, according to Jesus loves
us mightily, allowing us to blunder our way into hell if that is our wish.
God lets us make our own way, mistakes and all.
We are, each of us, free to choose to be wheat or darnel.
There is a strong emphasis in the bible on "righteousness", defined in
the Oxford dictionary as 2just, upright, virtuous and law-abiding
attributes are good and wholesome, but are somewhat dependent on whether
our lawmakers are righteous themselves. If a law is wrong - and some are -
is it righteous to follow them regardless? I think not, but it is a
Ironically, most democracies allow for protest by writing in as part of
their constitution civil liberties, freedom of speech, the right to appeal
or to withdraw labour. Jesus, it would seem, accepted laws that were
helpful and ignored those that weren-t. Least of all could he accept
hypocrisy, oppressive laws given under the pretext being helpful.
Much of today's lessons, and much of scripture in general, tries to
separate the religious world from the secular. It is those who recognise
God and are led by the spirit who are "the wheat"; those who live Godless
lives are the darnel, or weed, and doomed to the fire.
Paul himself recognised the two natures of mankind, the earthly and the
spiritual, the animal against the "higher nature". Those who strive for
righteousness, it is said, are destined to be adopted as "sons of God".
Strive for the higher things, says Paul, and leave the baser things
behind, and there lies true life.
If nothing else, Christianity gives us a challenge in life. Whether
there is truly a "life to come" and we are to join Christ in his glorious
resurrection is one of life's big questions. We don't know, but we can
pursue it in faith. I once asked a devout Christian how he knew "it was
all true" (not a question I would phrase today!). He said he didn't - but
he lived it as if it was.
That seems a good way forward.
And the reassuring thing is (for the righteous), as Psalm 139 says,
that whatever we think or do, or wherever we go, God is there; there is no
Depending on whether we live a righteous life, or one of evil intent,
an ever-present God can be seen as a comfort or a threat. Words of life �
or words of everlasting torment.
Wheat or darnel?