The Framework of History (4)
“The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil…” Matthew 13.38, 39
Hard to believe
Many Christians today have abandoned all hope of the field of the world blossoming into amber waves of Kingdom grain. Calls for hunkering down, retrenching into Christian enclaves, and fighting to preserve our remaining religious rights against the encroaching darkness of progressive unbelief, echo throughout the Christian camp.
A relatively sudden and widespread proliferation of under-the-sun tares has startled many contemporary Christians into thinking that our best interests as a community must lie somewhere other than in sowing, tending, and cultivating the field. There’s so much evil in the world that the situation seems hopeless, and believers today have turned from seeking the Kingdom to seeking a safer and more personal faith.
The proponents of under-the-sun secularism cannot explain the evil of the world, much less eradicate it; and, even as they decry and bemoan their condition, our secular contemporaries seem more inclined to adjust to evil than to repent of it (cf. Rev. 16.8-11). Indeed, evil as an idea seems quaint or strange or dangerous to our secular generation, a situation Andrew Del Banco warned must not be tolerated, lest evil, unacknowledged, destroy civilization as we know it (The Death of Satan).
Christians must understand the problem of evil, and bear in mind at all times that the evil that sings the glories of violence, incivility, lasciviousness, greed, inanity, and self-interest everywhere in the field of the world is a death rattle, and not a victory song.
The Christian worldview alone provides a cogent and consistent explanation for the cause and persistence of evil in the world, as well as the effective means for dealing with it. Eastern religions, with their doctrine of reincarnation, should by now have improved the lot of most of their kind, by successive reincarnations into higher states of goodness. But this is not what we see.
Islam, insisting that sharia law is the way to a just society, has been able to persuade almost no one that this is true, except those it manages to cow at the point of a sword.
Totalitarianism? We know where that’s been filed.
Pragmatic capitalism? Do the words greed, corruption, oppression, and the like portend hope for a less evil world?
Postmodernism? Sorry, but postmodernism, on its own terms, can’t explain anything.
These worldviews – which presume to have solutions for dealing with the evil of the world – only add to it, if only by degrees.
Christians understand the problem of evil. Evil entered through the devil’s temptation of our first parents, and it continues to spread and take root wherever his lying, deceitful alternatives to God’s truth are embraced and obeyed. The evil of sin affects the whole cosmos, which groans under the burden of evil, waiting for the sons and daughters of God to liberate it from sin’s baleful effects (Rom. 8.20, 21). Evil invades every human system – politics, family life, commerce, industry, international affairs – and plants the seeds that grow into the tares of self-interest, greed, and violence. Evil corrupts the arts, derails education, undermines relationships, spoils institutions, and even hinders the work of the Church.
Sin and evil are spiritual problems, and they cannot be eradicated by more education, economic reforms, or political schemes. Sin perseveres in the human soul and, unless supplanted by the good seed of the Kingdom, will bring forth the tares of evil to overgrow, strangle, and pollute the field. Evil will not be uprooted, but it can be contained; and this is what the Gospel of the Kingdom does, as the good seeds of the Kingdom take root and flourish throughout the field of the world.
This, in fact, is why there is not more evil in the world (as we shall see a bit later in this series). Jesus Christ has bound the strong man, and He and the good seed who grow up into His image are advancing the rule of righteousness, peace, and joy with ineluctable force. Not even the counsels of hell can prevail against them (Matt. 12.22-29; 16.18).
Yes, there are abundant tares in the Lord’s wheat field. They take root wherever the good seed of the Kingdom yields ground or fails to occupy it with deep roots. For the greatest cause of the continuing increase of evil in the world is the inexplicable lethargy and the timid, self-centered worldview of the putative followers of Jesus Christ. The apostle John insisted that the darkness of sin and evil was retreating before the advancing light of the Kingdom of God (1 Jn. 2.8, 17). If this is not true in our lives, cultures, and societies, if instead we wring our hands at the continuing advance of immoral, indecent, wicked schemes and people, it can only be because the good seeds of the Kingdom have yielded the ground to evil and retired from the field to gussy up their barns.
Do we want fewer tares in the field of the world? Then let us sow and cultivate more of the good seed.
1. How do we know what is evil and what is not? Should Christians merely “adjust” to the evil in the world? Explain.
2. Evil is ultimately a spiritual problem, and dealing with it requires spiritual resources. Such as?
3. The world may scoff at the Christian’s view of evil, but should that deter us from holding fast to our understanding of the times? Explain.
Next steps – Conversation: Talk with some Christian friends about the problem of evil. How do they deal with evil when it rears its ugly head in their lives? Should churches be doing more to address the evil of our day?
T. M. Moore
For a more complete study of the book of Ecclesiastes, download our Scriptorium series on Ecclesiastes by clicking here. Ecclesiastes is an excellent book to share with an unbelieving friend, as it confronts all the idols and vain hopes of unbelief, exposing their folly and holding out the hope of life in God alone. We’ve prepared a verse translation of Ecclesiastes which is suitable for sharing with believers and unbelievers alike. Order your copy of Comparatio, by clicking here.
For a more developed view of the Kingdom, and of the Gospel of the Kingdom, order a copy of our book The Kingdom Turn (click here) or The Gospel of the Kingdom (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.