Matthew 33:36-43

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.”

Jesus answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen! Matthew 33:36-43

“To every complicated question there is a simple answer and it’s always wrong.” I can’t remember where I first heard that but I have never forgotten it. Nor has it yet been proven wrong in my life. The question of evil comes to mind this morning.

I understand the impact and the simplicity of focusing the source of evil on an evil bad guy dressed in red with a pitchfork, living in the fiery caves of hell, a sneaky ability to morph into a slick con man, sending his evil henchmen demons out to trick and torture unsuspecting and gullible people. It fits right in with the idea of a Superman Jesus – sent to earth from a planet far, far, away to right all wrongs, to cast out demons, and to enlist his disciples in an all encompassing war to rid the world of evil, pain, sickness, and death.

I get it. When I’m in the room listening to the words of a preacher who is adept at naming the devil as the bogeyman in life, it is effective. Gives me the creeps and the chills.

There is a reason why sci-fi rockstar superhero movies are winning at the box office these days. People eat up the otherworldliness of it. Wonder Woman brings a whole lot more hope than Nikki Haley or Elizabeth Warren when it comes to ideas for improving the lives of people.

I also can appreciate how such embodied devil talk can so easily divide not only the spirit world but the human world into opposing teams. We just love this stuff. It comes so naturally to us. Us vs. them, my team vs. your team, the good guys vs. the bad guys, the wheat vs. the weeds, citizens vs. immigrants, rich vs. poor, white vs. black… There is no limit to our imaginations when we make these divisions – yet how strangely quick we are to always put ourselves in the “good guy”, “we mean well” category.

But I don’t believe it. And I don’t think it is a requirement that any Christian believe it. There is not a single mention of the devil or such a concept of an embodied evil bad guy in the Apostles’ Creed. The devil gets scant mention in the four gospels and then only at key points when the story takes us into the painful realities of temptation, the mystery of disability, mental illness, and suffering, and the treachery of disloyalty and betrayal. Precisely those places where we need words and mental images to connect powerfully within us.

And within us is the only place we need to look to see the reality of all that would deny and betray God. We bear the capacity for self-giving love and for selfish self-centeredness. We can twist others and be manipulated ourselves. We can reach for celery or cookies. We have the capacity to rush into a crowd to save the victims from a deranged shooter who wasn’t always a person capable of such a heinous and malicious act, until something truly broke inside of his brain. Even if our name is never in the papers, we also have the capacity to do great, if far more subtle, evil ourselves.

Simul ustus et peccator captures the reality of our lives far more than locating evil outside of ourselves or worrying about whether or not we are wheat or weeds. We can take great comfort in knowing that God loves all of us and that God is relentless in making us aware of the weeds within us, loving us into letting them go, loving us even when they continue to grow. We can find great hope in knowing that the day will come when, in the twinkling of an eye, the weeds within will be burned away, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Whatever that means, it will be good.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, we sense within us the tensions that pull us toward good and evil. We know our appetites for both good and evil, our capacities to be loving and hateful. Continue to do the work of sanctification within us. Protect us from fooling ourselves into thinking that we have arrived. You are the potter, we are the clay. As long as we are alive, conform us ever closer to Jesus, that we might be the people you have created us to be. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


One Response to “Matthew 33:36-43”

  1. Dave Armstrong Says:

    Interesting viewpoint ! I read your devotions daily because I like your viewpoint on the application of scripture.

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