Separating Wheat from Chaff

“His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clean out his threshing floor, and gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).
I have a vivid memory from a trip into Rasuwa District in Nepal’s Himalayas. It is of a young girl standing on the stone “patio” of her home, tossing grain into the air from a flat woven bamboo tray. The wind off the mountains blew the husks of the grain out into the deep gorge overlooked by the house while the heavier grain settled back into the tray.
Agricultural methods and overall lifestyle have not changed much in many hundreds of years in the remote areas of third world nations. Nepal’s fields are still plowed with yokes of oxen or buffalo. Most people walk wherever they go; in many areas there is no other transportation. Homes are without electricity, running water, or other amenities. Yet the needs and desires are much the same as those of more developed cultures.
One need is to thresh grain. Put simply this is the process of separating the useful from the worthless. Husks or chaff are inedible. Once it has protected the kernel of seed from the elements during growth, its usefulness is finished. It has no value as food -? in fact it is a liability or even a hazard. After picking the grain, the first essential process is to get the grain away from the husk.
There is obvious symbolic potential in this process. John the Baptist uses it to describe the justice of Christ. In his ministry as the Christ, Jesus will separate the wheat (righteous people) from the chaff (wicked), preserving the one and destroying the other. One has great value before God; the other is hindrance and hazard.
We might see the same symbolism in many aspects of life. Wherever we look there is the intermingling of valuable and worthless things. Often it is difficult or even impossible to benefit from the good until it has been completely disassociated from the bad. It may be companions, recreational activities, entertainment media, or many other fields. The need of “threshing” is the same.
There is also a lesson in the method of separation used by the girl in my memory. The wind blew the light husks, but allowed the heavier grain to fall back into the tray. Useless things are of light weight and little substance. In fact, that can be used in most cases as a diagnostic test. If there is no weight, if wind blows it easily, it is probably worthless. This may be true of people. We sometimes say of someone, “He (or she) is a lightweight,” meaning that he is unimportant, of no consequence. It is equally true of concepts, philosophies, activities, and other such matters.
Things that make a difference in life have real substance to them. They impact people and cause improvement and progress. Meaningless activities or ideas may look or sound nice but have no real effect. They are blown away by the wind, leaving that of real meaning behind.

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