Jesus in the parable of the wheat and tares said, “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…” (Matthew 13:24–28).
The parable of the wheat and the tares points out that not all those who claim outwardly to accept the principles of the kingdom of heaven are surrendered to God inwardly. Here, Jesus Himself is the sower of divine truth. The seed He came to sow is “good seed” but an enemy later on planted tares in the field. Satan, is this enemy (Zechariah 3:1). Although people can’t see him they can see his work. The wheat represents the committed believers and the tares the uncommitted ones.
When the servants saw that there were tares among the wheat “…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” (v. 28-30). Jesus said because the character of the two groups was not yet mature, it would be dangerous to separate the two. It is not possible to “gather up the tares” without affecting the growth of the wheat. Therefore, both groups should remain coexisting till the end of time.
Jesus gives the explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares later in Matthew chapter 13. He points out that the angels in the time of “harvest” at “the end of the world” are the ones who do the gathering of the tares to be burned (vs. 39–42). Sadly, through the ages, misguided Christians thought it their duty to “gather and burn” other Christians and persecute them as heretics. But Christ never gave them that authority.
This parable of the wheat and the tares does not say that the church should take no action regarding those who publicly rebel against the word of God. The Bible teaches that those who have public sins should be instructed first, then, if they insist on their rebellion, should be rejected as seen in the following references (Matthew 18:15–20; Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10, 11). But no man has the divine right to exceed these limits and persecute the erring ones.
In His service,