In the corn and milo fields of Western Kansas where I was born, the grain needs to be cleared of trash weeds before harvest time. This process is called rouging, and the farmers there often hire teens from the towns to cut off the seed pods of the weeds and remove them from the fields. It is hot and tiring work but helps rid the field of future weeds.
Rouging is very similar to culling which Webster’s defines as choosing, selecting or picking the choice parts of something. It can also mean picking out the inferior or useless parts and discarding them. One way to do this is winnowing which separates the grain from the chaff by fanning or beating it and allowing the wind to blow away the waste. It was done by Boaz (Ru 3:2) in Bible times and probably still exists in some 3rd world countries today. No matter the process, the purpose is to extract the seed from the rest of the weed.
Culling is not restricted to grain, Jacob used it with goats and with God’s help grew prosperous. It was a convoluted system, but with God’s intervention he was able to get the best and strongest goats from his father-in-law Laban’s flock (Gen 31:9). God culled the army of Gideon from 22,000 to 300 to defeat the Midianites in battle to show that it was not their strength but His that won the conflict (Jud 7). Most of us also cull in our everyday life. We clean out the refrigerator by throwing away the old or spoiled food. We throw away old or outgrown clothes and other items.
Jesus used culling in at least 2 parables to teach his disciples a spiritual lesson. In the parable of the weeds sown among the good grain, he instructs the workers to leave them until the harvest. When he later explains this to his apostles, he says that the devil sowed the weeds but the angels will pull up and burn them. They represent “…everything that causes sin and all that is evil.” (Mt 13:36-43)
Jesus also uses sheep and goats to explain the final culling that will occur at Judgment Day. He will send the goats on his left to eternal punishment (Mt 26:46) and the sheep on his right to take their inheritance of the kingdom (Mt 26:34). The big difference between the two groups was that the goats gave only lip-service to the poor and needy whereas the sheep treated them as if they were Jesus himself (Mt 26:31-46). Our lesson is that we have to do our good deeds from the heart like Jesus did.