27 September 2020Matthew 21:23-32
‘What do you think?’ (v. 28)
“A man had two sons” – those words and indeed the gist of the story will, I am sure, speak loudly to many of us who are parents. ‘Do as you are told’ we might say to one child and they will say 'yes' to placate their authoritarian parent, and then go off and do something that they want to do instead. 'Do as you are told’ we might say to the other who will stamp their feet and say ‘no I will not’, and then some time later we will find that the task we had asked them to do has been quietly undertaken and is complete. Yes, we can relate to the words that Jesus uses in speaking to the chief priests and elders here in this passage.
However, what we do not always realise is that in strict Jewish thinking it is the tax collectors and the prostitutes who are denying the authority laid down by God. It is they who, in the minds of the strict Jewish leaders, would be the ones who would say no to what they were asked to do; it is they who were constantly refusing to adhere to the commands of God, but it is they who in Jesus' thinking always have the possibility to change their mind.
On the contrary the story is saying that the Pharisees, those who profess obedience at all times to the will of God, remain inactive in the things that really matter. They are so tied up with getting the minute details of their religious duties in the right order they forget about their responsibility to the world outside the temple.
The story challenges us to decide which of the two sons our lifestyle relates to. Are we sometimes “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly use” as the saying goes, or are we so involved in the things of the world, that we sometimes forget about our duty to God our heavenly parent?
- How do we you create a true balance between your spiritual life and your call to love your neighbours?
- Which brother in the story do you relate to?
- Are there times when you neglect to spend time seeking God's authority for the work you do and go your own way regardless of what it is that he would expect of you? How might you change?