Reports from eastern Oregon indicate that a farmer there found a strain of genetically modified wheat growing in his field this season, a puzzling discovery since Monsanto, which had tested that strain of wheat for 12 years, never put it on the market.
Nobody can figure out how the wheat got there.
Theories abound, including one by a Monsanto representative suggesting that an enemy of genetically modified crops somehow obtained the seed and sowed it to discredit the genetically modified crop movement.
One would have to be a pretty strong conspiracy theorist to buy into such a wild scenario, and by now the reader is wondering if this article doesn’t belong in the “farm report” section of the newspaper, but what caught my attention was the eerie similarity this account has to one of Jesus’ parables (Matthew 13: 24-30), where a nameless, motiveless enemy slips into a farmer’s field and sows weeds among the wheat, thus jeopardizing the entire harvest.
The farmhands want to root out the weeds immediately but the owner refuses. This wise man allows the weeds and wheat to grow together until harvest day, when the weeds and wheat will be separated, the weeds to be burnt and the wheat gathered into the barn.
I have always loved this parable, a world where people are far too eager to draw conclusions about who fits into what classification, who is friend or enemy, saint or sinner, liberal or conservative, good or bad. The servants in Jesus’ parable are confident in their ability to winnow out the weeds without doing damage to the wheat, but the owner knows better.
This parable has its hard-nosed edge to it: There is an eventual judgment, a place of burning and destruction or gathering in to further usefulness, a time of accounting. The issue is about timing. Whatever it means for humankind to receive a final accounting, this discernment is ultimately in the hands of God.
Do we thus turn a blind eye to evil in our midst? Of course not. We are called, both as citizens of this nation and as people of faith to make decisions about the nature of goodness and the complicity of sin.
In some ways, like it or not we are like the field hands thrashing around in the field. Even on our best days we get it wrong. I’m not sure the jurors got it right in the Zimmerman/Martin case, but I didn’t sit in the jury box. I’m even more convinced that the “protect yourself laws” go overboard, but even here I would want to respond injudiciously.
A certain public figure (I wish I could recall who it was!) offered a standard response to those who criticized him. He said to each person, “You could be right.” Life is a lot like that. Our fields (wheat or otherwise) inevitably get contaminated and we are left to sort it out as best we can.
Creede Hinshaw, of Macon, is a retired Methodist minister.