Parable of the Tares ? No Middle Ground


The story of the parable of the tares is found in Matt. 13:24-30 and then explained by Jesus in verses 36-43.  I quote the parable as follows:

“Another parable he put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who 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 grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.  So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’  He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’  But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘” (Matt. 13:24-30 NKJV)

There has been a lot of debate over the years about this parable among commentators as to whether or not the kingdom referred to in the parable is the church or the entirety of the world over which God rules.  For the purpose of this article it really does not matter for the thing that struck me as I was reading this passage a few days back and which has spurred me to write on it is the stark contrast between the tares and the wheat.  There is no middle ground to be had.  One is either a tare or wheat and which one it is makes all the difference in the world.

Let us say for the sake of argument the parable is a reference to the church and the saved Christians in it (the wheat) versus those who are ungodly characters in it (the tares).  There is no middle ground there and to bring the point home if the ungodly in the church are not to be saved (and they are not) then what hope does that leave for the ungodly outside the church?  The answer is none.

All the godly are in the church.  One cannot be godly and be outside the church for the same process that saves a man (gospel obedience) makes him godly.  God adds the saved, the godly ones, to the church.  “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47 NKJV)  The church is that which Jesus is Savior of.  “Christ is the head of the church; and he is the Savior of the body.” (Eph. 5:23 NKJV)  The “body” is the church.  “And he put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body.” (Eph. 1:22-23 NKJV)

If a person is saved he is in the church, the body of Christ, but this does not mean once saved always saved for a Christian can fall away and become ungodly, even become a disbeliever, later in life.

In a practical sense as far as what will happen at the last day, the Day of Judgment, everyone is a tare who is not saved whether in the church or outside it.  All outside the church are going to be gathered together to be burned along with any tares that are found in the church.  

While Peter may well have had reference to the Roman invasion and destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 when he penned the following passage he nevertheless made a point we all need to give consideration to.  He said, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17 NKJV)  What indeed?

Paul tells us elsewhere.  He talks of Jesus’ second coming and says this, “When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, when he comes, in that day.” (2 Thess. 1:7-10 NKJV)  We see no middle ground.  One has either obeyed the gospel or he has not.

It brings me great sorrow and sadness to know people I care about and realize that to them gospel obedience and faithfulness is no big deal.  What they are thinking (or how) I will never know I guess and that saddens me too?  I am not sure they know.  Do they think the Bible is a fairy tale?  Do they believe you cannot trust God’s word?  Do they believe God exists or do they believe, as absurd as it sounds, that life somehow evolved from non living matter?  Or, do they think they are special and God is going to give them a free pass despite their ill treatment of him, disrespect, and lack of love for him?  Or, is it that they are just so “this worldly” to the point that they cannot give spiritual matters the time of day? 

They live their lives giving God little to no consideration.  “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.” (Psalms 10:4 NKJV)  No, to you and me they do not seem “wicked” as we generally think of the term but we must remember we do not think as God thinks nor do we see or understand as he does.  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” says the Lord.” (Isa. 55:8 NKJV)  Besides, if we are honest, and we stop and think about it, we know a person who does not seek God is proud in that he thinks he can do fine without giving God a primary place in his/her life.

If we don’t care about God while living why should we think we shall be saved in the Day of Judgment?  Whatever other lessons are to be found in the parable of the tares this one stands out to me – there is no middle ground.  One is either wheat or a tare, saved or lost, obeyed the gospel or hasn’t obeyed the gospel, loves God or does not love God.  How badly we desire middle ground, if not for ourselves for others, but there is no middle ground to be had.  It is finally heaven or hell.

“Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.  The son of man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:40-42 NKJV)

There is no middle ground but unlike in the physical realm where a species cannot help but be whatever it is in the spiritual realm a tare can be changed into wheat if the desire is there to make the change.  God’s desire is to save, not to cast into the furnace of fire.  “The Lord … is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV)  “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezek. 18:23 NKJV)  “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezek. 18:32 NKJV)

Yes, turn and live for there is no middle ground.