“But while he slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.” — Matthew 13:25
Christians should know this parable. And its meaning. The wheat are God’s people, those in whom he’s planted His seed. The tares are the counterfeits that carry the seed of the Devil. The two are very hard to distinguish … so what is the tell-tale sign? There are two of them.
In the parable, Satan sows the tares in among the wheat. At harvest, however, the distinction will be abundantly clear: Wheat has a head of grain. The tares are fruitless and empty. The wheat will be brought into the storehouse (Heaven) and the tares will be cast into the fire (Hell).
The challenge for us is that both the wheat and the tares will appear to be growing. There are those with the seed of their father, the Devil, that show signs of growing right alongside the true wheat.
It is this reason that we read this in Matthew:
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ Matt. 7:22
And the Lord’s response:
And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matt. 7:23
But is there a way to know who is and who isn’t? Notably, Jesus came out and told the religious leaders of His day, the Pharisees, that their father was the Devil. If that was true in Jesus’ time, it is likely no different today. Note that in the verses I quoted, the people will claim to have performed pretty “mighty works” for Jesus. And yet … they were workers of lawlessness and the Lord never knew them.
As I tell my kids, we cannot judge people’s salvation. That’s not our role. We also must be careful of quick judgments that arise from rivalry or envy which come without any intimate understanding of the person or their life.
There are those, however, who–for better or worse–have revealed fruit in their lives that calls into question their profession of faith. If someone claims to be a Christian, yet has a history of philandering, as is the case with some politicians … we can rightly judge that they do not appear to submit themselves to the Lordship of Christ.
The same is true for some high-profile “pastors.” There was one in Seattle who caused much hurt through his domineering and bullying behavior. He was known as the “cussing pastor,” and became famous for his apparent obsession with sexual relations. On the latter one, even the non-believing world found his interest creepy.
These are examples of the two signs of a counterfeit Christian:
- They cause stumbling or sin
- They are law-breakers
These come from Matthew 13:41:
The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers,
Rather than taking the yard stick to everyone around us, this should cause us to examine our lives.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12
We are not to simply assume that since we said a prayer and have been baptized that all is good. We should remember that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). We must be humble and meek, recognizing that if we think of Jesus as “fire insurance” we are not proceeding from a penitent heart.
Are we causing others to stumble through an inconsistent life that indulges in overtly worldly things? Are we condoning sin by calling it the work of grace? Do we declare Christianity to others, yet strive to be accepted in the various worldly cultures that crucified our Lord? Do we treat the gospel as a means of gain to create for ourselves a reputation and amass political and social power?
All of those things do violence to our fellow humans and create confusion. And they may be indicating that our faith-seed was planted by the enemy of all life.