Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Separating the Wheat from the ChaffOne of the primary reasons churches create doctrinal statements and other boundaries so so they can better protect the members against heresy and false teaching. Churches feel they need to separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the wolves, the sound teacher from the false teacher, the orthodox from the heretic, and the righteous from the wicked.

I understand the concern, and believe it is a real tragedy when people hear and believe things that are false. This concern drives me to read and write and study as I do.

But there are numerous problems with thinking that doctrinal statements and membership classes can keep false teaching out of the church. I will deal with one of them here, and others in subsequent posts.

Separating Wheat and Chaff is not Our Job

I hate to sound like a union member, but the first reason we should not attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff is because it is not our job. Judging others is the task of Jesus, and when we try to take this responsibility upon ourselves, we are practicing a form of idolatry by putting ourselves in the place of Jesus. Besides, we are notoriously bad judges.

Jesus knows this, which is why He says to just let the wheat and the tares grow together, and let Him sort it all out when He comes (Matt 13:29-30).

We inevitably weed out the wrong people, keeping those who have the money and the power while rejecting those who are humble and poor. Or we get impatient with the slow growth of some and think that if we “thin” the crowd a bit, we can give more water and nutrients to those who look more promising. But Jesus does not judge by outward appearances, and He often chooses the shameful, the lowly, and the foolish—the very same people we would reject.

Jesus eats with sinners

Jesus Welcomes those We Usually Reject

In the Gospels, the people who Jesus keeps around Him are typically the people we reject—the sinners, the prostitutes, the tax-collectors, the poor, the traitors, and the anti-government zealots. The people we tend to keep around are the people who couldn’t stand to hang out with Jesus—the religious and political elites, the rich, the famous, the well-known and well-off. Jesus would have accepted them the way He accepts everybody, but this second group didn’t like it that Jesus also accepted the first group, and so they chose not to stick close to him.

Notice that regarding the religious and political elites, Jesus did not put up a boundary or create a wall which kept them away. He welcomed and accepted them just like everyone else. But it was exactly this wide-open welcome policy of Jesus which turned the elites away. They wanted to maintain their privileged status, which is something Jesus would not grant. And so they kept their distance from Jesus, which is what many of us still do today.

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  1. says

    Well said Jeremy! We do a lousy job of trying to “separate the wheat from the chaff”. We may think we know someone, but only Jesus knows their heart. I knew a man (now deceased) who was a pastor until he retired. He always said and did all the right stuff, but after retiring admitted that he had never believed any of it. He said it was “just a job”.

    We have a family member who was trying to follow Jesus. The church announced that they needed more people in the choir. He volunteered. The pastor took him aside and told him he could not be in the choir because he was not a Christian because he smoked. He was shocked that the pastor would tell him that. That was almost forty years ago, and our family member and his wife have stayed away from the church and Jesus since that day.

    We may think that people like that pastor have good intentions, but we really don’t know that either do we?

    Only Jesus knows our hearts. He’s the one to separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. As Katherine Gunn said on another blog, if we try it, we may end up with a church full of goats!

    • says

      A church full of goats! What a picture!

      But you are right. We cannot really tell.

      I know a pastor right now who has blatantly told me on numerous occasions that the only reason he is a pastor is because he has no other skills, and could not make as money as he is now in the pastorate. He doesn’t believe a bit of what he does or says, but it is all “part of the job.”

      I wonder how common this is?

      • Ant Writes says

        I think we know the same person! However I do not want to know if my mentor feels that way. I haven’t spoken to him since I left the institution, nor has he tried to contact me. (It’s hard running a 2,000 member church)
        Many people I knew on the “inside” won’t even friend me on Facebook. It’s like they’re angry with me or they still think I’m possessed. ;)

          • says

            I have moments when I think it would be simpler…

            But I wouldn’t trade the freedom I have gained for that false sense of security – I have a handful of friends who believe in Jesus and seem to like me – even value me (a new concept for me). And I have one close, dear friend – we have stood with each other…

            And after all, what can I expect when, as a church leader, I quit and tell the pastor I can’t stay and listen to him preach because it makes me want to throw up – and refuse to preserve the image of the church by lying to protect a sexual predator in the pulpit. That is the kind of behavior that will get you shunned for sure. :-)

          • Ant Writes says

            That really stinks…I sometimes want to be ignorant of everything, and become a pew warmer..I really do.

  2. Clive Clifton says

    I know the feeling, control, manipulation, accusations, threats, innuendo, sidelined, gossip, devalued, these and other methods are used to isolate those who are seen not to be a yes person. The accusation of not being a team player is used, that can only apply if there is a team spirit at work to start with.

    Will the Church never learn.

  3. Ant Writes says

    I remember the Senior pastor at a church I worked at. There was a young man who loved the lord and wanted to go to bible school, but the Sr Pastor had a favorite, but this fellow had no interest. He was not a “learner”, not into reading and was a rather new Christian but he pushed him to Bible Schol and got him a scholarship (he knew loads of people). But the kid who would have excelled, was a fantastic student, and probably knew more about the Bible than the Sr pastor was sidelined. He wasn’t the pastor’s favorite. So he had to pay for everything himself. The unfavorite was a Christian all his life and had the makings for a missionary, while the favorite didn’t have potential for much. But when he finally graduated bible school, he was given a small church to run and eventually quit after 4 months. He was also the youth pastor at the church. But the pastor used him as another one of his “successes”. He made 5 pastors! What a claim! While the other kid was left hanging,was not allowed to run ANY ministry, and was never “pushed” into the pastor’s circles. I felt for him because what happened to him happened to me! I was not a favorite, because I wasn’t a Yes man, and I had other skills that I think a lot of them felt jealous of.

  4. Mark says

    I agree it is not our job but the quote in the bible is meant as a warning that Jesus WILL separate the wheat from the chaff and that it is important to accept his gift of salvation. It should also be noted that though he sat down with sinners he did so in an effort to expose them to salvation also. When he met the prostitute at the well he didn’t say; “because you have listened to me you will receive eternal life, he said “go, and sin no more.”

  5. antoinette says

    this is not true, we are told to judge righteously and God judges unbelievers but we are to judge believers, sin must be taken out of the church, read your bible again, what happened with the man that was fornicating with his mother in law, didnt Paul judge him, didnt he say for the church to judge him and put him away from the church, remove him? A pastor must not allow sin his church, thier are instructions to warn a sinner in front of the whole congregation. This is wrong, this is so we keep quiet and let false doctrine and sin fester in our midst.

    • says

      I understand the biblical words “judge” and “church” quite differently than you, as well as the role of the pastor. It is impossible to not allow sin into the church, and if any pastor tries, he better get rid of himself first. Your line of thinking leads down a very dangerous and hopeless road.

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