Since my post called “The church meets here…“, I’ve been thinking about serving others. One of the passages of Scripture that keeps coming to mind is the following:
“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:28-31 ESV)
I’ve been meditating on this Scripture in the context of several commands that Jesus gave us that would parallel with the command in this parable: “Go and work in the vineyard”.
Consider the following texts:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zechariah 7:9-10 ESV)
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-13:1 ESV)
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:26-27 26 ESV)
So, why did I list all of these passages? Because I don’t like what happens when I think of these commands in the context of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 21:28-31. When I think about this commands, I think I am more like the son who says he will obey, but then never does.
Meanwhile, I see unbelievers who are actually doing what Jesus said to do.
Was Jesus serious when he said, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you”? Could it apply to those of us who are religious today? Or does it only apply to the chief priests and elders to whom Jesus originally spoke the parable?
Before we dismiss how applicable this may be to us, remember that the chief priests and elders thought that they were orthodox as well. They had all the right answers.