“But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.” (Matthew 13:26)
The parable of “The Wheat & The Tares” has become one of the most well-known parables in American Christianity, primarily through popular contemporary preaching that “you can’t tell the difference between the wheat and the tares”; that a person may be sitting in church, doing all the “right things”, but really be lost. Many American church members have been convicted by such preaching that they may have never truly known Jesus as their Savior, and fearing that they might have been “tares”, have made new professions of faith in Christ and were baptized. But is there really no difference to be seen between the wheat and the tares?
Not according to the scripture. Look closely at Matthew 13:26: “But when the wheat sprouted and BORE GRAIN, THEN THE TARES BECAME EVIDENT ALSO.” Do you see that? The wheat “bore grain.” And when it did, then “the tares became evident.” Why did the tares become evident? Because in contrast to the wheat, the tares did not bear fruit. So the wheat and the tares may briefly appear similar, but their fruit (or lack of it) will reveal their true nature in time.
And is this not exactly what Jesus said earlier in Matthew 7:20, “So then, you will know them by their fruits”? According to the scriptures, a genuine believer and a lost person do NOT look exactly the same. You may generally tell the difference between a genuine Christian, and one who is not, by the fruit of their life. Now, are we able to judge hearts and make definitive decisions, based on our limited observations? NO — and that is why Jesus told us not to judge — in this parable, He told us we are not to attempt to pluck up the tares; we are to let them alone until the harvest. Only God knows whether a person is ultimately lost or saved; we cannot determine that.
But does that mean that there is no observable difference between a person who is saved and one who is lost? Not according to Jesus. Wheat bears grain; tares do not. “You shall know them by their fruits.” But remember, the most important question for you is not what fruit you see in other people’s lives, but what fruit is there in your OWN that demonstrates that you are genuinely a child of God?