If you would give me several hours of your time and a good chair I’d be glad to discuss with you why evil exists and why it is not a contradiction of an “All powerful, all knowing God.”
When asked why God created man when He knew he would sin, Martin Luther replied, “Let us keep clear of these abstract questions and consider the will of God such as it has been revealed to us” (Matthew 13: 24-30; 36-43, NRSV).
In our Scripture passages for today Jesus will give us a view of how we are to live and deal with the evil among us. Jesus tells us that we, those who have responded to God and the Son of Man, will face evil among us. Jesus calls them “tares.”
Tares are more specifically called “the bearded darnel.” It is mentioned only here in Matthew chapter 13. It is a species of rye-grass, and the seeds are a strong poison. It bears a close resemblance to wheat till the ear appears, and then the difference is discovered. It grows plentifully in Syria and Palestine.
Tares are present in the church as well, as we have many folks who look like Christians until we see their fruit. Mainline churches are especially full of tares, but every church has its share. The Christian tare is responsible for much pain and suffering among believers. Even Jesus had a tare among His disciples that He had to tolerate.
Tares are also present in our country as well. While many people feel as if America was set up as the world’s very first practicing Christian nation, dedicated to the freedoms endowed by the Creator as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, many do not and will do what they can to destroy or undermine it.
Just like the church America has never been perfect but her system of laws, care and concern for the least among us, and a willingness to share the burdens of woes was and I pray, still is a shining example and testimony to the exceptionalism of its people.
Over the years many have challenged and failed to destroy our union but the attacks are reaching overwhelming heights. Let me give you just one example. A man I will call a tare was David Saul Alinsky, born in Russia in 1909, who came to America and settled in Chicago and called himself a “community organizer.”
His philosophies for undermining society are recorded in his book, Rules for Radicals, which has become the basis, for a popular political movement aimed at “fundamentally transforming of the United States of America.” Many current politicians and political action groups operating in our country mark Alinsky as their “hero and mentor.”
Alinsky developed his ideas as a professor at the University of Chicago and as a community organizer in Chicago. The dedication page of his book is quite revealing:
Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history… the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom —Lucifer.
His instructions for “how to create a social state” include eight areas he said must be manipulated and controlled: Healthcare – Poverty – Debt – Gun Control – Welfare – Education – Religion – Class Warfare.
Look around church – sound familiar?
Listen to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13, verses 24-30 and 36-43:
“He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.
So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’”
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.
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.’ He 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!”
So much for Christians and “we the church” living in time of peace and prosperity. Instead we are being choked out and fighting for resources and our very existence. Many of you wonder why some churches aren’t prospering or why people don’t come to church, or what’s going on. The answer is simple for those with ears who listen to Jesus.
Sadly, many Christians spend most of every day with their heads in the sand, blissfully unaware, or strongly avoiding the war raging around them. And partially they are right, God is the judge who will remove the tares and settle the debts. Jesus tells us that. But we have to tend to ourselves and our preparation for the coming harvest.
The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for “religious” things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever, the best in the entire county.
When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.”
The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, “God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October.”
It would be wonderful to live separate from evil and troubles, wouldn’t it? But Jesus cautions us about judging and taking His justice into our hands. Instead we are to pray.
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn wrote:
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
In the end we don’t have the guts or heart to weed out evil.
We can ask all we want but Nigel Wright wrote in 1990 that “There is a fundamental sense in which evil is not something that can be made sense of. The essence of evil is that it is something which is absurd, bizarre and irrational. It is the nature of evil to be inexplicable, an enigma and a stupidity.”
What we must come to understand, as taught by Jesus, is the last few verses of this passage: “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.”
We need to make sure our own house, our own relationship with God is filled with prayer, petition, and repentance. We need to do everything to honor God, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then we need have no fear of the future or eternity.
An American writer named Wilson Mizner was a boxer who socialized with other boxers. One night Mizner and boxer “Mysterious” Billy Smith visited a San Francisco bar, where Mizner started a fight with some longshoremen.
At the end of the fight only one longshoreman was left standing. Although Mizner threw every punch he knew at the man, he wouldn’t go down. Suddenly, Smith noticed what was happening. “Leave him alone, Wilson!” he shouted. “I knocked him out five minutes ago.”
Taking a closer look it turned out that a punch from Smith had indeed knocked the longshoreman out cold, but had also wedged him standing up between two pieces of furniture.
Jesus assures us that evil was defeated on the Cross, and is only being tolerated up until the heavenly harvest. This story of Smith and Wilson give us an accurate picture of our already-defeated but still standing enemy, Satan!
So how then do we live until then? St. Paul’s joint Sunday School recently conducted a weeklong VBS. If you attended then you’d know. Listen to Ephesians 6: 10-17:
“Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.”
This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.
Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.
In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
Some of you think these are “Sunday School” words good just for children – but we as followers of Christ never needed them more. We need to cling to the old rugged Cross, the Truth and Light of Christ, and the Love of God if we are going to keep growing and avoid being choked out by the evil and vileness all around us that seeks to poison everything God created.
WE can’t put on the “belt of compromise,” “the breastplate of tolerance,” “the earth shoes of progressive evolution,” “the shield of political correctness,” “the helmet of ecumenical salvation,” or “the sword of human experience” and remain safe from evil and temptation. We just can’t do it anymore.
Each of us needs to re-read and study the first three chapters of the book of Revelation and especially take heed to the warnings listed there about “lukewarm” Christians from Laodicea who were happy as clams with their no commitment, no responsibility religion. So it is in much of the emergent and progressive churches today.
Listen to the words of Jesus from Revelation 3: 19-20: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
Don’t be lukewarm Christians. Only the full armor, the WHOLE armor of God will do! Amen.
John A. Toms