Don’t reap me bro!

Some notes on the parable of the wheat and the tares:

  1. The parable is found in two sources, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 and the Gospel of Thomas 57.
  2. The Gospel of Thomas version is the more succinct of the two: “Jesus said: The kingdom of the Father is like a man who had [good] seed. His enemy came by night and sowed weeds among the good seed. The man did not allow them to pull up the weeds. He said to them: Lest you go and pull up the weeds, (and) pull up the wheat with it. For on the day of the harvest the weeds will be manifest; they will be pulled up and burned.”
  3. The tares (or weeds) are poisonous darnel (lolium temulentum) and in their early stages of growth are hard to distinguish from wheat.
  4. According to the commentary offered in Matthew (believed by some to be the work of Matthew and not original to Jesus),[a] the sower is Jesus, the field is the world, the good seeds are the righteous, the weeds are the wicked, the enemy is the Devil, the harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels.
  5. That the commentary is not original to Jesus is suggested by both its absence in Thomas and also the use of expressions which it seems unlikely Jesus would have used. For example, the use of διαβολοσ “devil” rather than “Satan,” the former representing a later (post-Jesus) stratum of linguistic tradition in the New Testament.[b]
  6. The interpretation misses an important point in the parable, one which might suggest Jesus’ original intent. The servants volunteer to pull up the weeds but are told not to and to leave the wheat and the weeds together until the harvest when they will be separated under the farmer’s command: “The workers for the Kingdom should devote themselves to positive action; they must leave judgement to God at the moment chosen by him, and known to him alone.”[c] The parable seems to be calling for the patience to not weed prematurely rather than focusing on the Last Judgement.[d]
  7. This is especially important because there are so many weeds. Any attempt at reaping by human hands will damage the wheat.
  8. Taken together with Jesus’ other teachings, it seems that any confidence as to who is wheat and who is a weed may be unfounded. Things are often turned upside down in Jesus’ kingdom.


a. Geza Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, 140-141.

b. See Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, 81.

c. Vermes, 141.

d. Jeremias, 81.


  1. I like the Thomas version. Without Matthew’s commentary, this could be read as a parable about the different desires and motives that compete within our own hearts. Often, it is hard for me to work out what I truly desire or what really motivates me. This is made harder by the evolutionary impulse for self-deception. We all like to imagine we work with the best of intentions, but to a greater or lesser degree our good desires grow up with/are entangled with selfish interests. Perhaps the sifting to be done is within our own hearts. Or perhaps the weeds within our own hearts won’t be fully made manifest until the harvest.

  2. If you can’t tell the wheat from the weeds it’s probably because of that mote in your eye. I can help you get it out.

  3. Kristine A says:

    THank you for this. In gospel principles
    Sunday we had a second coming and a woman said all the people stoning the prophets on social media were the wicked to be destroyed at His coming. I commented that if you already think you are Wheat, you might be wrong and have missed the point. Now I have an easily accessible article I can post to my social media :) thx

  4. N. W. Clerk says:

    See also D&C 86.

  5. In the growth stages, wheats and tares are indistinguishable. In the harvest they are gathered in (into the church) and then the sifting happens. That is what we are starting to see with groups doing resignation protests and the like.

  6. ron,

  7. Thanks Ron, now tell us how bread is made.

  8. Section 86 is interesting because it deviates from the Matthew commentary. Rather than Jesus, as in Matthew, in section 86 the sower is the apostles.

    In any case, the Lord’s comment in section 64 that his church “in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened” seems to me to be a direct comment on the church’s failure to heed the parable of the wheat and the tares. It would be nice if we learned from their mistakes.

  9. This is why I like BCC. Insightful comments such as this which improve upon the original post.

  10. If this parable is a lesson about how the church is to be set in order, then we should at the very least recognize that it’s not the only lesson to be found in holy writ. Another is in 3 Nephi 18, where Jesus says “But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.”

    I haven’t paid much attention to the crowing crowd, but I suspect that it does not include many bishops or stake presidents, or any of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve who bear the burden of making the difficult decisions. Angels? Do you expect to see the Holy Spirit as it directs those men’s decisions?

    If you read on in 3 Nephi 18, you’ll note that those whom Jesus said should not be numbered among his people are nevertheless not to be cast out of our places of worship, or to be deprived of our ministry, for, as he said, we know not but what they will return and repent, and our efforts might be the means of bringing salvation unto them.

  11. To add to JKC’s discussion of learning from their mistakes we find also the very direct rebuke of the believers among the Nephites on the first day, is it even the first hours of his visit? Where in 3 Nephi 11:28 where he discusses the proper manner for baptism but then expands the rebuke cover all such disputes of doctrine:

    …And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.

    For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

    Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

    Pretty tough language direct from the source’s mouth concerning how we should treat each other when there are differences of opinion on what is doctrine.

  12. I don’t approve of the crowing you note, but aren’t you making some pretty strong claims about the ability of Jesus to regulate his kingdom in the here and now?

    38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

    If Jesus were to choose to pull some tares, why can’t he?

    Ah bible bashing. Always so productive.

  13. John F. To your first question: No, that’s not what I was saying, and my reference to the Holy Spirit should have made that clear.

    To your second question: I’m not sure what lesson we are to ultimately draw from the parable. Are you suggesting that we should ignore the direct instruction in 3 Nephi 18 because it appears to be inconsistent with the parable?

  14. I do not believe that 3 Nephi 18 is inconsistent with the parable.

  15. Then “he shall not be numbered among my people” means something different from pulling up the tares in the parable, and the Lord’s authorized servants can when necessary take such actions without running afoul of the lesson given in the parable.

  16. The only thing correct about your last comment is that you got the idiom right–most people err and make it “cut and dry.”

    Otherwise, nothing you wrote can be inferred fairly from my comments.

  17. Nepos, I thought that was uncool. I appreciated john f’s and Mark B’s contrasting points of view, and I didn’t sense any contempt from either of them. (Actually, I picture Mark B with his jaw squared and his eyes narrowed, and john f throwing tuffs of hair from his head and gesticulating vehemently. Both points of view deserve consideration. Don’t try to throw out the guy you disagree with. Kind of ruins the discussion.

  18. “‘he shall not be numbered among my people’ means something different from pulling up the tares in the parable.”


    But that doesn’t mean that the instructions in 3 Ne. 18 give the church unfettered discretion in the matter of excommunication or that the lesson of the wheat and the tares does not limit that discretion. Let’s not deal in absolutes. 3 Ne. 18 doesn’t mean that excommunication is never wrong and the lesson of the wheat and the tares doesn’t mean that excommunication is never right.

    The point, as I see it, is simply that in carrying out their divinely mandated responsibility to no longer number unrepentant sinners among the church, church leaders should bear in mind the lesson that their responsibility is not to root out sinners, but simply to invite all to repent, pray for those who don’t, and not count among the church those who refuse to repent.

    It’s also worth noting that Jesus’ concern about “disputations” is not just in chapter 11; he repeats the same warning in chapter 18 where he explains that the reason for the instructions on excommunication (including the instruction that excommunication is a matter of record-keeping only, and is not to be accompanied by any kind of shunning) is to avoid disputations about Jesus’ doctrine, and that the church will be blessed if there are no disputations.

  19. Also, this might be a little off topic, and if so, I apologize, but following up on my earlier comment about section 64, I realize that most LDS probably read “disciples in days of old” as referring to the original 12 in the New Testament. Maybe it does. But I think it’s more than things like James and John and Peter arguing over who get’s first place, or even Peter and Paul getting angry with each other about the place of gentiles within the church. What if it refers to the church at the time of the ecumenical councils, when the church took sides in the “disputations” about the nature of the Trinity, among other points of doctrine, and drew lines in the sand between orthodoxy and heresy? After all, the seeds sown then would be reaped for over a thousand years. And I think it’s fair to describe the fruits of those seeds (violent suppression of heretics for hundreds of years, followed by violent suppression on) both sides during the protestant reformation as a sore chastening and affliction. If so, it kind of puts a finer point on what exactly it was that constituted the disciples’ seeking occasion against each other and failing to forgive from their hearts, and what the lesson is that we should take away from those verses.

  20. Mark B.: “Then “he shall not be numbered among my people” means something different from pulling up the tares in the parable, and the Lord’s authorized servants can when necessary take such actions without running afoul of the lesson given in the parable.”

    Yes, I’d have to agree with that. Church leaders have the burden and authority to regulate membership in the church. Church membership does not equate to being the wheat.

  21. Cody Hatch says:

    A few observations:

    1) In neither story do the individual wheat shoots identify the tares. That is a job for the servants only.
    2) The servants are not explicitly identified as mankind. They seem to me to be angels who are taught by the master how to know which are wheat and which are tares, as well as when to harvest.
    3) Since God is no respecter of persons, I’d suggest that all of us – leaders included – are among the wheat and tares.

  22. Parables have multiple layers. You should be cautious in saying this in no way applies. The that some tares are making themselves manifest by their opposition to the church is plain. The fact is false-kindness* is being displayed as a virtue, while those who support the position of the church are being once again lumped in with backward bigots. When that happens, a faithful church member can certainly be understood for seeing some application of the wheat and the tares. Especially when so many self identify as tares either through mass protests, resigning, and possibly even the occasional social media and blog post.

    *remember it’s the church who essentially said it’s a false-kindness to ignore the grievous sin their concerned with.

    When discussing the tares it’s also helpful to point out Paul’s thoughts: For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

    It’s not our job as members of the church to take any kind of disciplinary action (the leaders of the church have the responsibility for that). But it’s further clear that being a member “in good standing” does not make ones heretical ideas correct in the eyes of God and his church. Indeed, it would seem the presence of tares not only help to demonstrate who is a tare, but also reveal who can be considered among the wheat.

  23. Cody Hatch says:

    Also, I really appreciated the insight into the parable, especially item #5, which is something I had not considered but which makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

  24. Cody, that analysis of #2 is just plain wrong. The servants of the Lord are his representatives. They represent him. They do his work. When they do it in righteousness, it’s as good as if he did it. The other word for that is priesthood.

    I would absolutely agree with your analysis if I didn’t have the understanding of LDS concept of priesthood. Your mistaken approach also explains the frequent failure among some in and out of the church who liken leadership to the Pharisees. Nothing could be further from the truth (unless you want to stand up and say they are no long the Lord’s authorized servants, representing him to the church and world).

  25. Cody Hatch says:

    Hula, it just says “servants”, which could be authorized people from among mankind or angels. The fact is, we don’t know which it will be.

    Also, you allude to the promise made to Joseph about his word’s being ratified by God. A promise to Joseph doesn’t automatically extend to his predecessors anymore than the promise to Abraham automatically extends to me.

  26. “Parables have multiple layers. You should be cautious in saying this in no way applies. The that some tares are making themselves manifest by their opposition to the church is plain.”

    And some tares are using their adherence to the church as a cover for being total asses. Multiple layers, you see.

  27. Sorry, that was false kindness*. Here’s your grievous sin: you’re an ass.

    *remember it’s the church who essentially said it’s a false-kindness to ignore the grievous sin their [sic] concerned with.

  28. “Parables have multiple layers”

    I knew it; parables are like onions. They make you cry, if you leave em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs . . .

    Course, not everyone likes parables. Why couldn’t more of the scriptures be like Dr Seuss? Everyone likes Dr Seuss. Dr Seuss has layers

  29. Steve,

    Are you saying that all tares are asses?

    I resemble that statement.

  30. “Here’s your grievous sin: you’re an ass.”

    Who moderates the moderators? Alternatively, can I start calling people asses here? I’m pretty sure I’d find it cathartic.

  31. We can call people asses, heretics, tares, apostates, wheat, and onions. We’re family.

  32. Talon: just so.

  33. So long as the asses you’re thinking of are not
    Round and pink
    As you probably think,
    But are gray, have long ears and eat grass.

    If that last line describes your thoughts, jimbob, have at it. Do remember, however, that it might insult the humble little beasts.

  34. To be clear Steve, I think of you as my grumpy Uncle.

  35. Mark, you’re pretty aware of where the lines are drawn on any given day.

  36. I think Jacob 5 may add a bit to the discussion as well. The bad branches not to be removed immediately that the tree is not lost, but rather that the bad branches be removed and good branches grafted in, in balance with the growing strength of the roots.

    Might also be one way to reconcile the wheat and tares and 3 Nephi 18.

  37. I’m just glad the folks a BBC actually believe there *are* tares — even if I’m one of ’em.

    That’s a step forward.

  38. Yes, but why did they cancel Top Gear?!?!

  39. I have read and heard so many members talk somewhat happily that a sifting is occurring and a separation. I read it in too many posts to count on facebook and heard it in Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School this past Sunday too. I was too weak to counter the rhetoric at church…didn’t wanted to get labeled an apostate and released from all my callings. I love this quote from Elder Ballard from his address to the Provo South region this past September,

    “Parents; Young Men and Young Women leaders; Church teachers, including seminary, institute, and BYU religious educators; bishops; and Relief Society and stake presidents: When someone comes to you with a question or a concern, please do not brush the question off—do not tell him or her to not worry about the question. Please do not doubt the person’s dedication to the Lord or His work. Instead, help the person find the answers to their questions. ”

    We need to not be afraid to ask questions or to help others seek answers. In practice, I feel real questions are not wanted and my dedication to the Lord would immediately be questioned- especially after this last Sunday.

  40. Sheesh. BCC, not BBC.

    Though, it is hard to tell the difference at times.

  41. I’m sure that the BBC feels the same way.

    I’ll tell you my personal view: I don’t know who’s a tare. No idea. I know what sort of personalities bug me and I have my own testimony, but that’s pretty much where it ends for me.

  42. Raka.

  43. It’s interesting that in that parable, Jesus never explains what qualifies those who are wheat and those who are tares. In Matt 25, he gives a similar parable in which the sheep are divided from the goats at the end of the world (and the goats, just like the tares, are sent into everlasting fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth). But in this parable he goes to great lengths to explain exactly the criteria for how he separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep on his right hand are they who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take in the stranger, visit the imprisoned and comfort the sick (hmmm, no mention of gay marriage here). Those who are cast into everlasting fire are they who do not those things.

  44. I think there’s a fair chance that I am a tare, and I appreciate it when you all (and bishops and apostles too) recognize that you are not angels and it isn’t time.
    (There’s a more radical version, but I’ll keep it to myself for the time being. Argumentative and likely to exceed even legendary BCC tolerance.)

  45. “Everyone likes Dr Seuss.”
    Everyone doesn’t. I admit it. I don’t like Dr Seuss!

  46. rebeccadalmas says:

    There’s also the parable of the workers in the vineyard:

    Matthew 20:1-16

    20 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

    2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

    3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

    4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

    5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.

    6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?

    7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

    8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

    9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

    10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

    11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

    12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

    13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

    14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

    15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

    16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

    Thus, it should be less about us versus them and more about doing what is right ourselves. Shall I work? Shall I welcome another in fellowship?

  47. Lars Glenson says:

    The TARES are revealed before our very EYES and shall be RIPPED OUT by the righteous whose eyes are not BLINDED by that nihilistic crapfest brought to us by RONALD “I SMOKE CIGARS” DOOFUS MOORE.

  48. Since they look nearly alike, what distinguishes wheat from tares is that one provides nutritional value and the other is not food. So the real difference is in their value to mankind, not in their blind loyalty (where it is blind) to leaders or their fake sympathy (where it is fake) to victims of bad policy. I’m sure there are tares on both sides of this debate and probably wheat on both sides. That’s because what is wheat isn’t manifest until harvest time.

    Defending the indefensible may be a Mormon virtue, but it’s not a virtue in general.

  49. Eve of Destruction says:

    Wheat and tares look the same until the fruit appears. By their fruits ye shall know them.

  50. Note, the parable of the wheat that the tares was talking about THE WORLD – not the Church of Christ.

    You’re absolutely allowed to reap within the church.

  51. Don’t fear the reaper.

  52. Advocating for a sifting and burning before judgment day and within this mortal life. Gleefully encouraging separation of some members from the body of the church. Saying it’s time for humans to drive off the 1 and, just to be safe, some more of the 99 in order to protect the main body of the most faithful of the 99. Patting oneself on the back for being the wheat.

    Does that sounds like the work of a sheep, a goat, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

  53. This parable is about the second coming when the world is burned with holy fire. The wheat (the righteous) are lifted off the earth, the tares (the wicked) are left behind to be burned as stubble. The wicked aren’t supposed to be destroyed too early because the wheat isn’t ready to be harvested. This is about all mankind, not just the church.

    Pretty straightfowrd here.

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