Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 4: Tares
Based on Matt. 13:24-30, 37-43
"Another parable put He forth unto them, saying,
The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which
sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy
came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit,
then appeared the tares also."
|The Wheat and the Tares.—Davis Collection.|
"The field," Christ said, "is the world." But we must
understand this as signifying the church of Christ in the
world. The parable is a description of that which pertains
to the kingdom of God, His work of salvation of men;
and this work is accomplished through the church. True,
the Holy Spirit has gone out into all the world; everywhere
it is moving upon the hearts of men; but it is in
the church that we are to grow and ripen for the garner
"He that sowed the good seed is the Son of man.
. . . The good seed are the children of the kingdom;
but the tares are the children of the wicked one." The
good seed represents those who are born of the word of [p. 71] God, the truth. The tares represent a class who are the
fruit or embodiment of error, of false principles. "The
enemy that sowed them is the devil." Neither God nor
His angels ever sowed a seed that would produce a tare.
The tares are always sown by Satan, the enemy of God
In the East, men sometimes took revenge upon an
enemy by strewing his newly sown fields with the seeds of
some noxious weed that, while growing, closely resembled
wheat. Springing up with the wheat, it injured the crop
and brought trouble and loss to the owner of the field.
So it is from enmity to Christ that Satan scatters his evil
seed among the good grain of the kingdom. The fruit of
his sowing he attributes to the Son of God. By bringing
into the church those who bear Christ's name while they
deny His character, the wicked one causes that God shall
be dishonored, the work of salvation misrepresented, and
Christ's servants are grieved as they see true and false
believers mingled in the church. They long to do something
to cleanse the church. Like the servants of the householder,
they are ready to uproot the tares. But Christ
says to them, "Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye
root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together
until the harvest."
Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open
sin must be separated from the church, but He has not
committed to us the work of judging character and motive.
He knows our nature too well to entrust this work to us.
Should we try to uproot from the church those whom we
suppose to be spurious Christians, we should be sure to
make mistakes. Often we regard as hopeless subjects the
very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. Were we [p. 72] to deal with these souls according to our imperfect judgment,
it would perhaps extinguish their last hope. Many
who think themselves Christians will at last be found
wanting. Many will be in heaven who their neighbors
supposed would never enter there. Man judges from
appearance, but God judges the heart. The tares and the
wheat are to grow together until the harvest; and the
harvest is the end of probationary time.
There is in the Saviour's words another lesson, a lesson
of wonderful forbearance and tender love. As the tares
have their roots closely intertwined with those of the good
grain, so false brethren in the church may be closely linked
with true disciples. The real character of these pretended
believers is not fully manifested. Were they to be separated
from the church, others might be caused to stumble, who
but for this would have remained steadfast.
The teaching of this parable is illustrated in God's own
dealing with men and angels. Satan is a deceiver. When
he sinned in heaven, even the loyal angels did not fully
discern his character. This was why God did not at once
destroy Satan. Had He done so, the holy angels would
not have perceived the justice and love of God. A doubt
of God's goodness would have been as evil seed that
would yield the bitter fruit of sin and woe. Therefore the
author of evil was spared, fully to develop his character.
Through long ages God has borne the anguish of beholding
the work of evil, He has given the infinite Gift of Calvary,
rather than leave any to be deceived by the misrepresentations
of the wicked one; for the tares could not be plucked
up without danger of uprooting the precious grain. And
shall we not be as forbearing toward our fellow men as
the Lord of heaven and earth is toward Satan?
The world has no right to doubt the truth of Christianity [p. 73] because there are unworthy members in the church, nor
should Christians become disheartened because of these false
brethren. How was it with the early church? Ananias
and Sapphira joined themselves to the disciples. Simon
Magus was baptized. Demas, who forsook Paul, had been
counted a believer. Judas Iscariot was numbered with the
apostles. The Redeemer does not want to lose one soul;
His experience with Judas is recorded to show His long
patience with perverse human nature; and He bids us bear
with it as He has borne. He has said that false brethren
will be found in the church till the close of time. [p. 74]
Notwithstanding Christ's warning, men have sought to
uproot the tares. To punish those who were supposed
to be evildoers, the church has had recourse to the civil
power. Those who differed from the established doctrines
have been imprisoned, put to torture and to death, at the
instigation of men who claimed to be acting under the sanction
of Christ. But it is the spirit of Satan, not the Spirit of
Christ, that inspires such acts. This is Satan's own method
of bringing the world under his dominion. God has been
misrepresented through the church by this way of dealing
with those supposed to be heretics.
Not judgment and condemnation of others, but humility
and distrust of self, is the teaching of Christ's parable. Not
all that is sown in the field is good grain. The fact that
men are in the church does not prove them Christians.
The tares closely resembled the wheat while the blades
were green; but when the field was white for the harvest,
the worthless weeds bore no likeness to the wheat that
bowed under the weight of its full, ripe heads. Sinners
who make a pretension of piety mingle for a time with the
true followers of Christ, and the semblance of Christianity
is calculated to deceive many; but in the harvest of the
world there will be no likeness between good and evil.
Then those who have joined the church, but who have
not joined Christ, will be manifest.
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The tares are permitted to grow among the wheat, to
have all the advantage of sun and shower; but in the time
of harvest ye shall "return, and discern between the righteous
and the wicked, between him that serveth God and
him that serveth Him not." Mal. 3:18. Christ Himself will
decide who are worthy to dwell with the family of heaven.
He will judge every man according to his words and his
works. Profession is as nothing in the scale. It is character
that decides destiny. [p. 75]
The Saviour does not point forward to a time when all
the tares become wheat. The wheat and tares grow
together until the harvest, the end of the world. Then
the tares are bound in bundles to be burned, and the wheat
is gathered into the garner of God. "Then shall the
righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their
Father." Then "the Son of man shall send forth His
angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things
that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them
into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing
Click here to read the next chapter:
"Like a Grain of Mustard Seed"