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The wheat and the tares. A parable told by Christ and further explained in Doctrine and Covenants 86. Essentially the parable goes like this. A man and his servants sow good seed in a field. When they go to sleep, an enemy comes and sows tares. The servants get confused because they put good seed in, and the master tells them an enemy did it. The servants want to go and rip out all the tares, but the master tells them not to. If you rip up the tares, you might rip up the wheat with it.
The interpretation in its simplest form revolves around letting the children of the kingdom and the children of Satan grow together. We all live in this world, and the Lord has chosen for it to remain that way until He comes again. Then the wheat will be separated from the tares.
A grand majority of us have studied this parable to some extent; however, I think there are still a few things that can get emphasized or seen in a new perspective. Most of the insights revolve around tares, what they are, and how they affect the crops around them.
There are some scholars who believe that tares in the bible are darnel weeds. There was an actual law in Roman times that prohibited sowing darnel in an enemy’s field. We know Christ liked to use familiar experiences to teach about the kingdom of God, and so it’s very possible that these tares were darnel. Darnel is a weed that looks like wheat until it grows and ripens. Darnel can house crop pests and diseases. Darnel can be used for erosion control, but most experts believe that its negative impacts outweigh its usefulness in this purpose. Darnel is poisonous to both humans and livestock, it takes very little darnel to have adverse effects in your crop.
Looks like wheat
Doctrine and Covenants 86:3 And after they have fallen asleep the great persecutor of the church, the apostate, the whore, even Babylon, that maketh all nations to drink of her cup, in whose hearts the enemy, even Satan, sitteth to reign—behold he soweth the tares; wherefore, the tares choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness.
In Matthew 13, the Lord teaches that the tares are children of Satan; in verse 3 of Section 86, we learn that Satan dwells in their hearts and reigns there. The main thing I want to emphasize here is that Satan dwells in the heart of those who are the “tares.” Why am I choosing to emphasize this point? I emphasize it because it’s so key to understand that the Lord gave us no earthly labels by which we may call out the tares. Tares can include all kinds of people: nonmembers and people who actively work against the church. And yet, tares look exactly like wheat which also leads me to believe that tares can walk among us in church. Particularly damaging is when those tares are leaders.
Now, I do not emphasize this point so that we can look back at some leader who did us wrong or any other members who may have inadvertently made it harder to live the gospel. I’m bringing this up so that you can take another opportunity to look inwardly and ask yourself if you have some tare tendencies and change. I think there have been times when each of us have been a tare in the wheat field and “led the church into the wilderness (v.3).”
We know that parables have layers of meaning. In this parable, the tares often represent people, but I believe that there are mixtures of tare and wheat within each of us on an individual level as well. There are a million ways that these tare tendencies can manifest, but let’s talk about two examples and pull out the main principles by which we can judge ourselves. Now the tares look like wheat; what I want to discuss right here are qualities that look Christlike but are not.
First of all, there is “tare” humility. Surely this can take the form of someone who pretends to be humble in order to look righteous, but it also takes the form when our opinions of ourselves are too low. When we tear ourselves down, we are in essence saying, “I know I’m the worst, and God is wrong about me.” Any time we tell God that He’s wrong, we are manifesting pride. One other way that false humility raises its head is when we put ourselves down in response to a compliment. Take Moses; this is a big example but I use a big example so that it’s easy to see the principle. After parting the Red Sea, the children of Israel come forward and thank him. They gush over him and tell him how incredible he is. Does Moses get excited about what a good job he did? No! Does he respond with, “Oh it really wasn’t anything. That wasn’t a big deal.” No! It was a big deal. Our small daily miracles and spiritual gifts are also big deals, and we shouldn’t put them down. We should attribute them to God. Real humility turns outward and is manifest in gratitude and glorying in the miracles our God can perform; “tare” humility is a poor mimicry of that.
Another example is “tare” charity. Real charity is spontaneous. Real charity is when you can’t help but jump in to defend someone you love even when they’re imperfect. Real charity is when you find yourself on your knees praying for this person unwittingly. “Tare” charity comes with a “Bless her heart” kind of attitude. Now, if you’re not from the south, allow me to explain this phenomenon. Some people believe that you can say whatever nasty things you want about a person as long as you end it with, “Bless her (or his) heart.” It’s backhanded. It’s arrogant. The spirit of that kind of “tare” charity is prideful. It’s when you pat yourself on the back for “loving” someone who you believe to be beneath you. If you think that you’re better than someone, if you don’t feel any respect for them, if you pat yourself on the back for tolerating them, you don’t love them. You don’t have to love someone in order to be willing to die for them. Some people love themselves so much that they’re willing to die for another person to show everyone else how righteous they are. It has nothing to do with real charity. I had this kind of counterfeit charity for a while, and I thought I was pretty darn cool for being so loving.
Note how I called these attributes “tare” humility and “tare” charity. It’s because they look like wheat, but their true nature is a tare. Every Christlike attribute has a counterfeit; it can be tare instead of wheat. You have to dig down deeply and examine your actions to make sure they are composed of wheat because tares will not save you in the end. You cannot just look like wheat. You have to change your nature and become Christlike.
Pests and diseases
Darnel can house crop pests and diseases. It affects the wheat around it. Let’s look back at our “tare” charity to further the parable. As I already mentioned, I used to think I was a pretty loving person. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t particularly spiteful or mean, but there was definitely pride mixed in with some of that love. I thought I was great, and when you’re too busy thinking you’re better than other people, you do not have any room left to ACTUALLY love them. And you know what happens at this point? That “tare” charity you hold becomes a disease and affects the good wheat around you. You can poison others around you to think that they’re better. You can even poison the person you supposedly love. People recognize when they’re not actually loved. People can feel when your words and actions come from a place of true charity vs a place of duty or self-righteousness, and it spreads spiritual disease. We learn what love is from other people, right? If someone comes to church and feels this counterfeit love, what will they come to expect from their Savior? Why would they want anything to do with their Savior if they believe He is a Being who will merely tolerate them? Just like tares can house dangerous crop diseases, we can be housing these spiritual diseases and those around us will feel it.
Tares and wheat growing together
The Savior allows for the tares and wheat to grow together. It is His way. In the parable, He says it’s because the servants might pluck up the wheat as well. What does this truly mean? In my mind, I don’t believe that He means the angels will accidentally pluck up the righteous people when trying to get rid of the wicked so what is He really trying to say here?
Well let’s look back at Doctrine and Covenants 86 for a few more answers.
Doctrine and Covenants 86:6 But the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.
So we need time for our faith to grow. This makes perfect sense when you think about what the world would like if the Lord plucked up the tares immediately. What would happen if the good guys always won immediately? Well…there would be a couple of things. First of all, we would all be burned because we have all fallen short of being true Christians at times. Second of all, our faith would have no room to grow. How much faith does it take to do the right thing if you know you’ll be destroyed immediately for doing the wrong thing? The answer is…not a whole lot. How much faith does it take to withstand Satan in all of his disguises? Much, much more. It takes an immense amount of faith to see the problems in our wards and families and leaders and church and to be compassionate and faithful anyway. It is not an easy thing to do.
Last point. There are many of us who have chosen to step away from the church at one time or another because of the tares; there are also many of us who love people who have stepped away because of the tares. I warn you to be careful not to label them as tares. I don’t warn you of this simply because it will keep them away from church (though that is precisely what it will do). I warn you against labeling them as tares because first of all, you don’t really know who the tares are. You may think you know, but you do not. Never never never never never forget the lesson that Jacob told the Nephites that they were more wicked than the Lamanites despite the fact that the Lamanites were murderers. Remember that lesson because it came from the Lord. If you have time to label someone as a tare, I warn you of your own “tare” charity. If you view someone as a tare because they’ve stepped away from the church, you are very likely missing out on the beautiful qualities that person holds, and it will be to your own detriment.
I’m grateful for a Savior who is merciful enough to give me time to get rid of my own tare tendencies. I’m grateful for a Savior who is merciful enough to let me live in a fallen world so that I can grow to be like Him, and I’m grateful that He performed the atonement that makes up for the fallen world and gives us the happy ending should we choose to follow Him.