Seeds of Destruction

From the Daily Office Lectionary for Friday in the week of Proper 25, Year 1 (Pentecost 22, 2015)

Matthew 13:24 ~ [Jesus] put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.”

Years ago I heard a sermon in which the preacher told us that the parable of the wheat and the tares may not have been original to Jesus, that it was a common story used by other First Century rabbis and that discussion of it could be found in the early rabbinic literature. One gloss on the story tells of how, when the master planted a second field, the servants mounted a guard to be sure the enemy did not come and sow more weeds there. To the servants’ surprise, it was the master who came, walking in his sleep and unaware of what he was doing, and sowed the poisonous seeds.

In three decades of preaching, of leading bible studies, and of researching Scripture I have yet to find the rabbinic commentary to which that preacher was referring. Still, it’s too good a story to have forgotten and sounds much too rabbinic not to have at least the possibility of truth, so I continue to look for it and continue to find it helpful as an interpretive tool.

I don’t know if Karl Marx was the first to use the term, but in a speech to the central committe of the Communist League in London, England, in 1850, he said, “The rule of the bourgeois democrats, from the very first, will carry within it the seeds of its own destruction. . . .” What is true of political systems, the rabbinic gloss suggests, is true of individuals: we all carry and sow the seeds of our own destruction. Each of us is (or, at least, can be) our own worst enemy.

I’m overweight. That’s the nice way to put it. Medically, I’m obese. I hate that word, but it’s the truth. In fact, on Body Mass Index charts my height and weight intersect at the cusp moving from “obesity” to “extreme obesity.” Not good, I know this.

And yet . . . offered a lovely piece of raspberry coulis topped New York cheesecake . . . there is no way I am going to turn that down! My excess weight is the furthest thing from my mind when that happens; I might as well be sleep-walking through my wheat field scattered the seeds of poisonous darnel. Only by become self-conscious and self-aware (I believe those are two different things, by the way) and making the decision to take action about my excess weight will I cease sowing the seeds of my own destruction.

Perhaps this morning’s meditation is a wake-up call, a time to stop the enemy from walking through my field.