Magazine Article

The Parable of the Weeder

Pay attention to the field you’ve been assigned.

Julia Vernon
The Parable of the Weeder

Farmer Celestial dreamed of a bumper wheat crop. He spared no expense—got the best seed, the best equipment, had a soil analysis done to find out what kind of fertilizer he needed. Everything was done to ensure the best wheat harvest ever. 

After the work of planting was done, Farmer Celestial turned in for a well-deserved night’s sleep. That night on a blighted farm down the road, Farmer Adversary was biding his time until Farmer Celestial was asleep. He would get even with Celestial for having a better farm, a happier life, and more influence than he had. So that night he crept into Farmer Celestial’s fields and planted weeds—not just any weeds, but tares: poisonous plants. Tares look just like wheat when they are growing. It is only in the last few days before harvest-time that anyone can tell the difference between them, because the ripe tare seeds turn black. 

One of the farmhands noticed some black wheat-like seeds along the edges of the field. He got to poking around and found more of them mixed with the wheat seeds in the field. Rushing back to tell the boss, he asked, “How did tare seeds get in here? I thought you planted the premium-quality seed. Do you want us to start pulling up the tares when they sprout?” 

“No. Leave them alone. Let them grow up with the wheat. We’ll sort it out at the harvest, because if we do it any sooner, we might accidentally pull up some of the wheat, too,” said Farmer Celestial. 

Things went along like that for several weeks. Then some of the plants in the field began coming in to talk with the farmer. “Sir, there are tares in my field. Since I live right there in that field, I’m volunteering to weed out the tares. I’ll pick them out, tell you just what they are like, and we’ll pull them up by the roots.” 

The farmer put them off tactfully, assuring them that he had made provisions to take care of the problem at a later date. 

The plants settled down, and things were calm for a while. But the tares got out of hand and began destroying the field. For the sake of the real wheat, the tares had to be destroyed. 

Come harvest-time, there wasn’t much good grain left in the field. Grief-stricken, the farmer called the remaining wheat over to him. “What happened out here?” They told him of the good care they had taken of his field, weeding out the tares. Sadly he answered, “I called you to grow and flourish. I called you to be fruitful. I called you to show others the love and beauty of my farm. I called you to enjoy the safety of my silo after the harvest. I never called you to be weeders, because I knew you couldn’t tell the difference between wheat and tares. That job was for the harvesters. Much good grain has been lost.” 

What Is Our Real Calling?

There are many jobs for us to do in God’s field. Paul gives us an impressive list of the job descriptions found in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. Study as we might, “weeder” never appears among the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

There’s a reason for this omission. We’re human, and God understands that. He understands that we cannot see the “thoughts and intents of the heart” as He can. He understands that we can make judgments only on the limited information we get from our five senses. The girl who sleeps around may have a heart that is yearning toward God as she encounters Him in Sabbath School. The man with the silver knob through his pierced tongue may, in time, become a great evangelist. The music one group fears is too lively may be the only way another group will hear the gospel. The woman in the immodest dress may be wearing her best to honor the God she is just coming to trust. Heaven help His people if they turn on her and paint a new picture of God as untrustworthy after all. 

If we want to do some weeding, there is one place God allows it. Paul tells us about it in 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (NIV). When we find the wrong plants in ourselves, it is there that we can weed to our heart’s content. 


There is some wonderful news about this kind of weeding. God Himself will give us the tools we need to do this job correctly and will work by our side while we weed. Second Corinthians 10:3-5 assures us of our tools, for though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 

Let’s face ourselves honestly. Our minds are often our worst enemies, for as the saying goes, “My mind is a dangerous neighborhood. I never go there alone.” Arguments, resentments, grudges, and flattering pretensions easily set up housekeeping in the field of our brains. And before we realize it, our thoughts have strayed from the path of obedience. Thus God equips us with the tools to weed out those worldly thoughts and bring our minds back to healthy obedience. 

Never forget the help we have while we’re in there working. Romans 5:5 fills us in on the light God brings with Him when he comes to our weeding session: “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (KJV). 

Love is the best light by which to weed. When we weed by love, we won’t beat ourselves up with mistaken guilt, feel that we are not persons of worth because we do not live up to society’s worldly ideals, or come to the conclusion that even God couldn’t love us. We won’t weed out our sense of worth in God’s sight or an honest acknowledgment of the assets He has given us. And we won’t uproot our confidence or throw our childlike trust on the compost pile. 

Use His Light

There’s one other very important benefit of weeding by the light of God’s love. We won’t lose our way in the dark and find ourselves weeding God’s field instead of our hearts. We can be very sure that when we are weeding in God’s field we have been working in darkness, and our “love light,” our companionship with the Holy Spirit, needs to be rekindled. 

Proverbs 3:5, 6 points us to the expertise we can rely on: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (KJV). 

If your life depends on finding edible plants instead of poisonous ones, which would you rather rely on—a guidebook put out by a noted naturalist, or your prejudices about what looks nice? Trust the Author of the guidebook. Acknowledge His directions and live by them. Give Him the first place in any debates your mind has with you. When your will is surrendered to Him, He will not only lead you to the weeds you need to pull, but will also nurture the good plants in your heart garden. 

It would be a shame to look over God’s field on that great resurrection morning and see piles of dead wheat pulled up before it could flourish because we weeded where we shouldn’t have. Sadly, we run that risk every time we decide we know who in our congregation is a real Christian and who is not; who has been saved and who needs more work; who is in tune with God’s Spirit and who is not. God has indeed given us a field to weed—not His, but ours. Let’s go into our hearts with the company of the Holy Spirit and labor there. In the end we’ll have some delightful surprises when that great day comes.

Julia Vernon

Julia Vernon wrote this while living in the beautiful state of Utah.