“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Matthew 21: 28 – 31a
Oh please, just give me a test tube or a petri dish. These philosophical questions that Jesus poses just make my head hurt. But I will try to answer his question ‘What do you think?’ As a black and white thinker, I would have to ask, ‘what is the goal of the father’s directive?’ In the parable we interpret the father to be God and the vineyard to be God’s Kingdom. So, if we are looking at the fundamental will of God as being ‘honesty’, then I would have to say both sons failed. And that really would be my initial reaction to the sons’ actions. However, in answering his own question, Jesus suggests that the goal was inclusion in the Kingdom and perhaps the ordering of the queue at the entrance gate. Jesus commends those spectators who cheered for the first son, the one who changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard. He then pointed out to his listeners that while they might have considered themselves to be the more righteous, it was the people who changed their minds and thus their actions toward God who would be at the head of the queue.
What really stand out for me are the last nine words ‘going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.’ This tells me that the queue might be long, even slow, but everyone who wants in is going to make it. (To be clear: that is not a license to abuse God’s law.) There are no closure times. And given that, I don’t care where I am in the queue. I am just thrilled to be getting to the Kingdom, but I certainly don’t need to be first in. I truly enjoy the benefits of Kingdom life in this earthly realm and am happy to hold back for others who might need the heavenly benefits more than I do.
Prayer: God, you sometimes give us frustrating challenges and Jesus asks some awkward questions. Help us to trust you as we search for the answers in our lives. Give us courage, give us a heart for justice and then let your love shine through us.
Action: Energized by the comfort and security of knowing you are in the queue for the Kingdom reach out in love to be the earthly Kingdom for the needy of body, mind or spirit.