Matthew 21:28-31 – “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. NKJV
This is an interesting parable. We have two sons and a father. The father asks one of his sons to go to work in his vineyard. The son says that he will not go, but then he goes and work in it. Then the father goes to his second son and asks him to go and work in the vineyard, and he says that he will, but he doesn’t. Sounds like anyone you know?
Let’s look at the first son. He said that he wouldn’t go and work, but he changed his mind and went. Actually, the NKJV says that he regretted that he said no, and so he went. Most of us would admit, that we can get with this son. Whether it was respect for his father, or guilt that made him regret it, we don’t know! But at some point, he got up and went out into the vineyard. This son made the father feel better by doing what he was asked.
Then we have the other son. The one who said he would go, but didn’t go. This son is the one that makes you want to kick him out of the house! He basically told his father, what he wanted to hear, then did what he wanted to do. This son made the father’s heart heavy because he lied to his father, and let him down. Know anyone like that?
Then Jesus asked, which one did the father’s will? The answer was, the first! Can I stop here for a moment and say that although he did what the father asked, and I’m sure the father was glad that he went, he was still wrong! Notice Jesus didn’t applaud either son, nor did he agree with the answer that the first son had done the father’s will. He just continued on with His point!
Have you ever been in this situation? You asked someone, maybe your child, to do something and their first response is no? Do you remember how utterly frustrating it was for you to hear the word no? Especially if it was something as simple as the example above. It’s the family business, and everyone is needed to make it work. Why weren’t the sons already working? Why would he have to ask them to do that which they should already be doing? Nevertheless, he asks and the son says no. But then he has a change of heart and goes out to the vineyard. In a way, he did what was asked of him, but the fact that he said no doesn’t put him in the “son of the year” category.
The Father asks things of us all the time. Sometimes we say no, and later we come back and do what he asks. But to make it right, we have to fix it. That’s called repentance! And that first son may have regretted it, but Jesus doesn’t say that he went to his dad and repented. I’m not so sure that Jesus was as please with the first son, as I’ve been taught. I know that in a similar situation, my concern would be that my son had the nerves to tell me no. Then he went, thinking that just because he did, I should be happy. I’m not feeling generous towards him at all!
Then the second son said yes, and didn’t go! I’m even more upset with this kid. Lying is unacceptable! Did he forget? Did he know he wasn’t going when he said that he was? This is even more frustrating, to have someone say they will do something and they don’t! How about us, with the Father? Or even with one another? Do we say we are going to do something and then we just don’t do it? Have you ever been guilty? I won’t ask you to confess, if you don’t ask me to confess!
In both of these situations, if we are honest, both sons had a problem. If you had to decide who did what the father asked, it was the first one. If you ask, who did the will of his father, I have to say neither. What?? That’s right! Neither!
The first son went, but he didn’t want to go. He even said that he wouldn’t. Obedience is an attitude. Naturally and spiritually. As a parent, I would have been glad that my son finally went, but I would’ve been disappointed that he had said no in the first place. And if he didn’t come back and apologize, I would have wanted him to, to know that he understood what he did wrong.
I teach social and emotional learning and restorative practices. Sometimes you have to fix a thing, by addressing it, and realizing that you have hurt someone. I know this parable is about obeying God. And I know that in a sad way, the son showed obedience. But if in his heart, he struggled with obedience, then it will happen again because his first response wasn’t a yes! He felt bad, and went; but he should’ve gone to the vineyard immediately. Does that make sense?
Jesus was making a point that the Pharisees were the ones who said that they obeyed the Law, when in actuality they did not. They said they loved God, when they had no proof of that love by their actions. They rejected Him and wanted to get rid of Him, acting as if they didn’t know God at all. Then there were the sinners, who originally acted disinterested in the things of God, at least with what they had seen, but when they heard the truth, spoken by Jesus, they wanted to obey Him.
I may be overthinking this, but I am sure that God loves it when we “come around” to His way of thinking and do as He asks. It most definitely is better than saying that we obey Him, and then we don’t! But a better way, when we know He is speaking to us, is to simply say yes and do what He asks. I know firsthand it’s not always easy. I try to never ever say no. But sometimes I have to build up the courage, or pray a few more times about it, or even get counsel, because I’m not excited about it or sure it’s Him. Maybe I’m more like the first son then I care to admit. But when I know it’s God, I obey!
I don’t want to be like either of them. I want to learn the voice of God and then learn to obey Him. All of the time. I don’t ever want to say to Him that I won’t do something He asks. I say that I won’t go on the mission field, or become a pastor, but that’s because I can say He hasn’t asked. But if He does, I want to be able to say yes to His will, even if I want to say no! Just a thought! Wonderful Jesus!