Friday, May 30, 2008

A Second Look at Justice

Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'
" 'An enemy did this,' he replied.
"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "
the world."

Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."
He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear (Matt. 13:24-30; 36-43).

Any farmer’s field will sprout a few weeds along with his crop. In this parable, the problem is greatly compounded by an enemy who, under cover of night, deliberately planted tares, or weeds, in a field. Understandably, the farmer’s servants wanted to pull up the as soon as they were apparent, but the farmer insisted that they wait until harvest time, lest the good wheat be uprooted prematurely along with the weeds.

This gives one reason why God does not immediately remove evil-doers—those who exploit us on the job, make our neighborhoods unpleasant places to live, are a bad influence on our children, or cause dissention in a church. Removing an evildoer might “uproot” innocent people as well. If my unjust boss is permanently removed by a heart attack, who will support his children? And how will I support my family if the business by which I am employed folds because of his passing?

Secondly, could not the presence of this troubling individual be an occasion for us to grown in humility and maturity?

“Consider it pure joy, brethren, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

How do we become Christians who are not bent out of shape by evil, but who overcome evil with good? By viewing trials as opportunities instead of situations to grudgingly endure!

Finally, the Lord does not immediately remove the wicked because “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). After inflicting harm on many Christians, Saul of Tarsus was converted.

A different Saul—the first king of Israel, who had rebelled against God—hounded David, his successor-to-be. Although presented with two opportunities to kill this mortal enemy, David refused, leaving it up to God to remove Saul in his time and his way. After spurning many opportunities to repent, Saul died on the battlefield. What if he had been removed immediately? David would have been deprived of the process of developing into a strong, faith-filled man and acquiring a core group of followers whose skill and loyalty were forged in the fires of shared persecution.

Jesus indicates in the parable that it is the angels’ job—not ours—to remove the tares [weeds]. Some of them might yet repent. (Some of them might not even be as much of a weed as we are!) Until they repent or are removed, the promise to us, if we determine to accept it, is that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him . . .” (Romans 8:28).

This is an excerpt from Streams of Living Water: A Daily Devotional Guide to Meditation on God's Word by F. Burleigh Willard Sr. and Celia Willard Milslagle (Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2007).

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