The Parable of the Two Sons

30 07 2008

Matthew 21:28-32

 28But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.

 29He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

 30And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

 31Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

 32For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

Jesus speaks this parable in the presence of some of the most important religious leaders of the day.  The first son in the parable initially refuses to do what the father requests, but eventually has a change of heart and does what is asked of him.  The second son feigns obedience to the father but then does nothing that has been told him.

Jesus then shows His audience that it was only the first son who actually did the will of his father.  Then, in one of the several moments that Jesus provokes the religious leaders to want to kill Him, He tells them that whores and members of the IRS will enter the Kingdom of God before them (at least, He probably would have said that if it happened today).  This is because the religious leaders didn’t repent when they heard the truth, unlike those they had deemed “sinners,” who turned to God.  The Pharisees and Jewish leaders thought they had all their doctrinal ducks in a row (stolen phrase- can’t remember where from though), and refused to believe that there was a possibility that they could be wrong.  Their self-righteousness had blinded them into thinking that they had all their bases covered and no one could tell them otherwise.

Is it possible that this same spirit of self-righteousness still exists today?  “Of course,” you may say.  “The Roman Catholics who are steeped in ritualism and extreme legalists who over-emphasize works-based salvation are very guilty of this.”  This may be true, but do not be too quick to judge others.  Look inside yourself and do a bit of soul-searching, and you may be surprised at what you find (I am guilty of this as much as anyone else).

Jesus said that repentant harlots and publicans would enter the kingdom of God before those He was addressing (notice He said “before,” not “instead of”).  Why do they get to go in first?  The answer lies in the fact that they were the ones who did the will of their Father.

The next question one would naturally ask is, “Well then, what is the will of the Father?”  Well, let’s make a list, shall we?  Which of the following do you feel is part of the will of the Father that we are to fulfill?

  • Holding rallies to ensure that a judge who wishes to keep the Ten Commandments displayed in his courtroom is allowed to keep doing so (The same Ten Commandments that were under the Old Law that Jesus took away [Heb. 10:9]).
  • Bombing abortion clinics
  • Boycotting any movie that disagrees with Christian values in any way
  • Calling women who have had abortions “baby-killers” and demanding they repent of their evil ways
  • Keeping churches “clean” by making sure that no one of obvious “questionable moral character” is allowed membership, or even inside the building in extreme cases
  • Fighting atheists tooth and nail to prove that God exists and they are wrong (by the way, I love this quote from the book Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller:  “Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and some other guys who do believe in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly I don’t care.”)
  • Writing songs with lyrics like “If you’re pro-choice, you’re pro-kill / Innocent bloodshed, murder at will” (no, I’m not kidding- the band No Innocent Victim wrote the song these lines are from, called “Pro-Kill.”  That is so soaked in irony right there that their very band name is a declaration that no victim is innocent, yet they call the killing of babies “innocent bloodshed.”  There are so many implications right there- I’ll save that for another day [By the way, don’t get me wrong, I think abortion is a horrific and wrong practice].)
  • Telling people who are not Christians that they had better get their life right before they die or God will sentence them to Hell to be tortured forever
  • Telling people that they need to start a personal relationship with Jesus Christ now so that when they die they can go to be in Heaven with Him or else they will end up in a place called Hell which is an eternal separation from God as a result of their own choices

I was listening to a message by a man named Gary Amirault the other day (a message that inspired much of this particular writing).  The message was called “Bull-DooDoo.”  Mr. Amirault told of a time when he was asked to speak at a Christian convention.  He spoke on the pharisaical ways of many Christians today and apparently used the word “bullshit” to describe it.  Having not realized he said the word, he was shocked when afterward he was pulled aside by two of the convention’s members of leadership and told that members of the audience had threatened to leave the convention over the use of the offensive word.  This got Mr. Amirault thinking, and after a lot of deliberating over whether he used the word because he was sinful or careless or what, came to a conclusion.  He looked through the Bible at all the strong language used by Old Testament prophets and Jesus against those who were doing particularly evil or deceptive things, and realized that perhaps God Himself had given him the word “bullshit” to describe the empty, useless doctrines/traditions/things valued by Christians, a word Mr. Amirault absolutely was not intending to use beforehand. (By the way, if you want to hear the message, let me know and I can send you the mp3 files so you can listen to it).

Take a good look at that list again.  Which of those things requires God’s intervention?  Which of those things, if you were to ask Him right now, would He want to be involved with?  Is God the God of guilt-trips?  Is God the God of improving the morals of those people who don’t even believe in Him in the first place?  Is God the God of the sort of justice that would compel a man to bomb an abortion clinic (after all, the abortionist had killed many before, right?  Surely, he deserves death?)  Is God the God of the death penalty?

(As an aside, take another good look at the last two items in the list.  Do you see a discernible difference between the two?  The first probably seems dated and legalistic to the modern Christian, whereas the second probably has a less harsh tone to it, and seems to relieve God of some of the responsibility of some members of His creation being lost forever.  A good question to ask yourself is why we as Christians have moved from “God condemns you to eternal torture” to “We sentence ourselves to eternal separation from God.”  There is a reason.)

When will we realize that Christianity is not about morality?  Jesus did not come to preach morality!  If He did, there would have been no reason for Him to come, for morality was already perfectly laid out in the Mosaic Law!

Look at this next list.  Again, ask yourself which of the following you think would be included in God’s will.

  • Telling people that God loves them unconditionally and has paid the ultimate sacrifice so that they can be saved
  • Loving people regardless of race, religion, color, sexual orientation, or political affiliation
  • Telling people that nothing they do could ever change how much God loves them
  • Visiting and caring for those who are suffering, regardless of if they have made bad choices that have caused them to end up where they are
  • Showing people that those who truly love Jesus are not condemning, but are, first and foremost, full of love and compassion for others
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