Good People vs. Bad People (1)

His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Luke 3:17

A lot of times we think of this as “the bad people are the chaff; the good people are the wheat.” We have to understand the image of wheat and chaff to get this scripture right. 

Key insight: each individual grain of wheat contained BOTH the outer protective husk and the inner nutritious kernel. 

In ancient Israel, threshing the wheat meant throwing the ripened stalks up in the air and the wind would catch the lighter husks of wheat and blow them away, while the heavier kernels of wheat would fall to the ground to be gathered up. What’s crucial here is to realize that this was not about good grains of wheat and bad grains of wheat; each grain of wheat had both husk and kernel.

This insight is really helpful when thinking about what John the Baptist is saying here. In the preceding passage John challenged everyone to repent, and he showed what that looked like when he interacted with the worst of the worst – a tax collector and a roman soldier. He did not tell either that they were chaff – that they were bad. Instead, he challenged each of them to let go of the chaff in their own lives (he pushed them not to misuse their power and not to live for their own pleasure). 

So what if the invitation here is not to see the world as “good people” and “bad people” but rather as “people loved by God who have both good and bad in them”? Wouldn’t that free you up to love people (including yourself!) better? Ask Jesus to help you see people the way he does.