Matthew 13.29: “in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.”
Being authentic is a good thing. When we feel safe and courageous enough to speak the reality of our lives, it is a good to be authentic, as one has become free from the control of those who would silence and abuse you. Another reason being authentic is a good thing is that it allows us to make our sin and struggles known to others, so that we can be healed. Authenticity is a good thing. We should seek to be authentic with our lives.
However, when concerns about “authenticity” becomes a value that we are constantly on the watch for in others, it brings with it a deeper problem: the inability to trust. It leaves us always watching and suspicious of others to see if they are true and genuine. When we are constantly on the lookout for the “true” from the “false,” we show a misanthropic view of people. With this misanthropic view, we may become tempted to try to develop an ‘expertise’ in understanding people to differentiate the wheat from the tares that makes us believe we can see into people’s hearts. Such a worldview and “expertise” will end up placing an inordinate emphasis on the inner, unseen realities of other people’s lives.
We can enter into this word of suspicion for various reasons. Maybe we have been abused and trust is hard to come by, so we seek to find ways to protect ourselves from it ever happening again. Maybe it is someone who is inauthentic themselves while pointing to the perceived inauthenticity of others. Maybe it is someone who has recently learned about cruelty in the world and has become somewhat of a skeptic themselves.
Whatever the reason we enter into this mindset, there is a cost associated with it: in being unwilling to trust that is revealed by an inordinate emphasis on “authenticity,” we risk harming the wheat. The Pharisees are a prime example of this. They saw Jesus as “inauthentic,” demanding signs from heaven and accusing Him of casting out demons by the power of Beezlebul all to ignore the enormous good gift of life that Jesus was bringing that can only be understood as coming from the Finger/Spirit of God. Meanwhile, they have such a misanthropic view of the world that many of them would discard sinners, seek to purify Jerusalem of gentiles, and would focus on the specks in other people’s eyes while they had a plank in their own.
It is in this backdrop that Jesus gives his parable of the wheat and the tares, which ultimately points to Jesus’ own vocation as God’s King as one that is not out to uproot all the sinners and godless Gentiles, but rather to bring about a good harvest for righteousness. When wheat and weeds first start growing, they are indiscernible. You can’t tell the difference as they whether they are ultimately a wheat or a weed. In Jesus’ parable, the answers to the problem of there being bad seeds/the children of the devil amidst the good seeds/the children of God is not to go about trying to find all the weeds: you would pull out the wheat alongside them. Rather, when the wheat and the weeds are grown for harvest, then they will be seen for what they are.
The point of this parable: don’t aspire to rid the world of all the problems that you feel are lurking underneath the surface. This doesn’t mean we should be passive in the face of a glaring threat or harm, but it means that we don’t need to enter into a mindset where we feel we can just read people’s hearts, especially from afar. It is Jesus who will judge the secret thoughts of all people (Romans 2.15). It is above the pay grade of the angels symbolized in the parable of the wheat and the tares and it is therefore definitely above our pay grade. We can see the obvious problems of both a severe and a repetitious quality and we can even many occasions make sense of people’s unseen intentions from all that we do see and hear, but we can’t peer deep behind the surfaces of people’s words, facial expressions, actions, etc. to the fundamental core of who they are.
We might grow overconfident in our ability to know people because we saw something from that one person who hurt us deeply or we were suspecting someone and ending up being right that one time about some person, but we never actually saw their hearts, but we only saw surfaces. But in some cases, some of those surfaces that was unconvered to reveal a darkness in that one case you remember may in another case be covering a beautiful gift. Speaking as one who has had to deal with the trauma that has made it hard to trust: don’t ignore the surfaces and feel free to keep distances if you feel anxious but be careful trying to dig deeper into people’s hearts. Trust God with all the hidden, invisible problems of the world and obey Him by seeking to be the wheat God has called you to be.
There are the obvious inauthentic people out there in the world, but don’t let them lead you to fear everyone’s inauthenticity, or you might miss enjoying the blessing that is another person that God has planted.