A Misused Parable

By Johnny Stringer

The Parable of the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30) is one of the most perverted and misapplied passages of God’s word. Brethren err in applying this passage to out treatment of erring brethren. Some brethren tell us that since the householder commands his servants to let the tares (the wicked) and the wheat (the righteous) grow together, it is wrong for a congregation to withdraw from a brother who refuses to repent of his sins. Brother Dillard Thurman also makes the error of applying the passage to our treatment of erring brethren, as he uses it to castigate those who endeavor to expose the errors of brethren. (See his article, “Leave the Matter of Tares to the Lord,” which appeared in Gospel Minutes, Feb. 9, 1973.)

One who is only casually acquainted with the New Testament can readily see that the Parable of the Tares cannot mean that congregations are forbidden to discipline disorderly members, for if it did it would contradict such plain passages as 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15. It is equally obvious that the parable does not mean that it is wrong for us to expose error and rebuke brethren who teach and practice it, for if it did it would contradict such clear passages as 2 Timothy 4:2, Jude 3, Ephesians 5:11, and Titus 1:10-13.

Jesus explains the parable in verses 37-43. Let it be noted that the field in which the Lord sows wheat and the devil sows tares is not the church-the field is the world (verse 38). The children of the devil and the children of the kingdom exist in the world (the field) together until the end of the world. At the end of the world the angels will gather the tares out from the midst of God’s people and cast them into the furnace of fire.

It is obvious that neither church discipline nor exposing the errors of brethren is dealt with in this parable, for Jesus is not discussing the evil and the righteous in the church C the field is the world, not the church. Some believe that since verse 41 says that the angels will gather the tares out of the kingdom, the tares must be citizens of the kingdom. However, the context proves otherwise. The tares are children of the devil as distinguished from children of the kingdom. The tares were not sown by Christ, but by the devil. They are not citizens of the kingdom, but they do exist among citizens of the kingdom in the same field (the world). Thus, gathering them out of the kingdom must mean gathering them out from among the people of the kingdom. According to Thayer, the preposition translated “out of” (ek) can mean “from the midst. . . of many.” The tares will be gathered from the midst of God’s people.

Note also that the servants of verse 27, whom the householder told not to gather the tares, are not Christians. The Christians are represented by the wheat, not by the servants. The command to let the tares grow along with the wheat, therefore, is not meant for Christians. Our treatment of the wicked is not under discussion in the passage.

The uprooting of the tares represents a final separation of the tares from the wheat. The point of the parable is that the Lord permits the evil and the righteous to exist on earth side by side, not separating the two groups until the end of the world. We could not change that if we wanted to. When we rebuke sinners or when a congregation disciplines a member, the rebuking or the discipline does not bring about the separation forbidden in verses 28-30, for the sinners are still growing in the field (the world) with us – and will continue to do so until God brings about the separation at the end of the world.

Truth Magazine, XVIII:23, p. 9-10
April 11, 1974