Leave that to the Harvesters

Working with other Faiths

The Lectionary this past Sunday was Matthew’s report of Jesus’ parable of the weeds:

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like someone who planted good seed in his field. While people were sleeping, an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat and went away. When the stalks sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared.

“The servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Then how is it that it has weeds?’ ‘An enemy has done this,’ he answered. The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’

“But the landowner said, ‘No, because if you gather the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat along with them. Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvesttime I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”

Matthew 13, Common English Bible.

Also this week was a lively conversation on the United Methodist Preacher’s Network, a nearly 1,000-strong group of UM clergy on Facebook. They were talking about interfaith issues (specifically the Faith Shared Alliance) and how to work with other faiths who deny the truth claimed by the Christian faith.

My take is that Matthew 13 says that the gardeners and tillers are *not* to separate the weeds from the wheat. That is left to the harvesters (not the Dune kind, like the picture). Judgement is reserved for the harvester of what is kept and what is burned up.

To me religious tolerance is about reserving judgment to the harvester. We can till, we can garden, we can nurture, we can argue about whose wheat is the wheatiest…but judgment of what is fruitless and what is fruitful is left to One greater than us.

This is not a denial or endorsement of an exclusive Christology, it is an acknowledgement that God is sovereign in this area. I’ve reflected on this before when we talked about Rob Bell.

I wonder what role those who would not support working with other faiths on equal ground consider themselves to be: gardeners or harvesters? The ones who do God’s work or perform God’s judgment?


(Image: Dune II screenshot of a Harvester)

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  1. says


    One of the main points that I made about this parable Sunday is that Jesus is the one planting the seeds. The key is we don’t know which seeds are his and which one’s are not so we should leave them alone!

    The other important point is that Jesus is the one involved in all of the other parables in that chapter which shows us that he grows the kingdom in unexpected and often misunderstood ways. His kingdom is much bigger than we can imagine…..oh, and he also has the great, miraculous ability to transform tares into wheat.


  2. Joshua Ball says

    I’m not so sure that Jesus is the only harvester, or that harvest refers to judgement day. In his own day, Jesus said that the harvest was already plentiful, and he said we should pray to recruit more harvesters.

    This doesn’t mean that we have the right to judge; I think it just means the parable is not applicable.

  3. Fr. Gregory says

    If we read the text in a way that says one cannot judge, then you’ll have a contradiction in the way you read once we get to most of St. Paul’s Epistles.

    E.G. 1 Cor 5.12 “For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?”

    If we read it in a way that says we can’t know what’s fruitful or unfruitful, then we’ll have a contradiction once we see all the exhortations to bear good fruit, do good deeds, etc.

    E.G. Luke 3.8-14
    Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

    St. John the Baptist assumes they know the difference between fruitful and unfruitful, and when they show they don’t know, he tells them, so that they can’t make the claim they can’t tell the difference.

    There are a number of ways of such contradictions, one is to reject religious toleration. As you say, ‘religious toleration is about reserving judgment for God,’ but it seems St. Paul wasn’t interested in that project, even contradicted it.

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