TUESDAY, APRIL 5TH
A TIME FOR A STORY
As we gather with Jesus for our Tuesday story, Jesus first gives us a little background information. He explains that, after the chief priests and elders witnessed his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and people gathered to shout his praises, they became desperate to question Jesus and find fault with him. He then decided to tell them this parable:
What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said, “The first.” I said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32, NRSV)
Sit with this story for a few moments. When have you felt like the first son, agreeing to do something but not following through? When have you felt like the second son, initially refusing but then changing your mind? Were there any regrets? Any unexpected blessings? How is Jesus touching your soul with this parable today?
This story brings to mind Jesus’s initial call for his disciples to “follow me.” Oh my, I find it much easier to say, “I will follow you!” than to actually follow. I can be like the second son, readily saying, “I will go!” because I am eager to please Jesus, but also because I am only thinking of the personal benefits I gain through his love for me. I am willing to follow Christ until it means I must surrender plans, make sacrifices, change my direction, or do exhausting work. The old adage, “It’s easier said than done,” certainly is true.
Today I notice the wisdom of the first son, as he refrained from committing until he had time to consider all that the work would entail. His answer initially seems rude, disrespectful, or lazy. But, given time to think, he changes his mind and does what is asked. On the other hand, there have been a few times when my quiet prayer, “Your will be done…” is quickly followed by, “…but please don’t ask me to…” I hesitate to even consider some possibilities!
The chief priests and elders were all about the words – the rules, the questions, the Bible passages to memorize and quote. The religious leaders looked religious and talked religion. But as Jesus pointed out, the tax collectors and prostitutes, who didn’t have all of this biblical word knowledge, who were far from religious, were much closer to kingdom living than they were. It seems that the words and the rules actually hindered the religious leaders from truly following Jesus. The saying impeded the doing.
God understands and welcomes our prayerful discernment. We have been given the Spirit to help us do so. When we sense a new calling, or when we are asked to commit to a new responsibility, we are wise to prayerfully weigh and consider before we answer. We will give a more definitive and committed “yes” when we first ensure a clear understanding of the time and sacrifice our commitment may require, consider our God-given gifts and passions, and truly seek to love and serve God in the best ways we can. Our prayerful, thoughtful (and sometimes delayed) “yes” is better than a swift, shallow, and showy answer that will promise little and mean nothing.
May we live our lives of faith with such integrity that our saying and our doing are one and the same, always coming from a heart that genuinely longs to love and serve God well.