Matthew 21:28-32 (VOICE) 28 But I will tell you a story, and you can tell Me what you make of it: There was a man who had two sons. He said to his first son, Father: Go and work in the vineyard today. First Son: 29 No, I will not. But later the first son changed his mind and went. 30 Then the father went to his second son. Father: Go and work in the vineyard today. Second Son: Of course, Father. But then he did not go. 31 So which of the sons did what the father wanted? Chief Priests and Elders (answering at once): The first. Jesus: I tell you this: the tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 John came to show you the straight path, the path to righteousness. You did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. Even as you saw the prostitutes and the tax collectors forgiven and washed clean, finding their footing on the straight path to righteousness, still you did not change your ways and believe.
This passage, this parable from Jesus is one that I am not sure I fully understood until after becoming a parent. Obviously, I understood what is happening in this parable, but what parenthood provided me was a connection to the feelings associated with what is happening in this story.
One of the responsibilities that our boys have is to take out the garbage and recycling every week. Even though this is a job that has to happen at the same time every week, it usually requires multiple ‘reminders’ before it is accomplished. Almost without exception, each of those reminders is greeted by the same response, ‘sure, Dad.’ This isn’t a big deal and is completely normal – it would be suspicious if our (or any) children didn’t need a few reminders to fulfill their responsibilities. That is part of the process of growing up.
Our trash and recycling pickup day is Thursday, and to write this out feels a bit silly, but when I pull into our driveway on Wednesday night after being at the church for Bible study, and I see the garbage and recycling bins already on the road, there is a rush of pride/happiness/something that comes over me.
It is such a little thing – moving the bins from the side of the house to the street, but when it happens it really does bring me joy. And this is what Jesus is talking about – the kind of joy that comes from when we live into the call God has placed on our lives. When we do what God has asked us to do. Words matter, but when they aren’t matched by action, they are hollow.
I think the parable and its moral are fairly obvious and straightforward. Jesus is, essentially telling us that talk is cheap, and that it is our actions that matter. Jesus is primarily concerned with our hearts, and the message here is that the best indicator of the inclination of our heart is not what we say, but instead what we do.
Back to parenting, one of the lessons that I am learning – and have been trying to learn for quite a while – is that if it is really important to me that our kids do something, telling them about it isn’t enough. Instead, I have to model it. As a parent I have to model the behavior I want to see in our kids, because what we do matters. And so it is with our faith, what we do matters.
Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer : Help us, Lord, to follow you with our actions and our hearts, not just our words. Amen.