City Christians often interpret the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares incorrectly, because they do not understand how wheat grows (Matt 13:24-42). Because the tares are still there at harvest time, they assume that Satan will dominate the church age, even as the church spreads its influence. Their mistake is to assume that a bumper crop of weeds and a healthy crop of wheat can grow up together. This is not what happens. Wheat and weeds cannot grow together equally. One will always grow faster and choke out the other.

Sometimes the weeds do get ahead of the wheat. When that happens, the farmer really suffers. I remember a crop of wheat like that when I was growing up on a farm. A lack of rain after the wheat had come through the ground stunted its initial growth and the weeds really got away in the dry half of the paddock. When the rain did come the wheat could not catch up. The crop of wheat was so thin on that half of the paddock that it was not worth harvesting. We just ploughed the wheat back into the ground. The rest of the crop was very poor and we just got enough grain to cover the cost of the harvesting. That is what happens when the weeds gain control. The crop fails.

A good crop of wheat is different. Wheat seeds germinate quickly. If the soil has been sufficiently cultivated to kill the weeds, and moisture is plentiful, the wheat will grow quickly. Each wheat plant sends up several tillers, so one plant produces a number of stalks that can carry heads of grain. Within a short time, the wheat will grow enough that the light and moisture is shut out from the weeds below, hampering their growth. Only a few weeds will survive.

When these few weeds are small, they look just like the wheat. Their leaves are hard to distinguish from wheat leave, so they cannot be easily removed. The weeds can only be distinguished from the wheat when the seed heads emerge. However, by then it is impossible to remove the weeds without damaging the crop of wheat.

As the crop comes into ear, a few weeds will appear above the wheat. In New Zealand, we do not have darvel (tares), but it was not unusual to see heads of wild oats poking out above the wheat. Pulling them was impossible without trampling the wheat, or pulling out the wheat with the wild oats. Harvesting with a combine harvester we had no choice, but screen the wild oats out after the grain was harvested.

However, the situation would be different, if the crop was being harvested by hand. The harvesters could gather the weeds first. They could reach about an arm's length into the crop and clear a narrow strip of tares without trampling the wheat. They would just break off the seed heads, so they would not damage the wheat. When they had harvested a strip of wheat, they could reach into the next strip and clear it of tares. However, this would only be possible, if there were not many tares. There is a limit to how many a harvester could pick out individually in a day.

The tares were gathered, so that the seed did not fall to the ground and grow again. They were taken away and burned so that the bad seed could not fall to the ground and corrupt the soil.

Jesus was describing a good crop of wheat. The fact that it was being harvested shows that the weeds had not choked out the wheat. The fact that the harvesters could pick out the tares by hand shows that there were not many tares. The fact that the tares were picked individually by hand, while the wheat was harvested by handfuls with a sickle, shows that the wheat vastly out-numbered the tares. This is confirmed by the fact that the tares could be stacked in bundles, whereas the wheat filled a barn.

All this means that the parable of the wheat and the tares is not describing and evenly-balanced, uncertain struggle between the church and the world. It is actually an illustration of the church being so successful, that evil persists in only a limited way. The enemy can only work by night (by deception), but even then he is unsuccessful. The Wheat and the Tares is a parable of victory, just like the parable of the mustard seed that follows.