A Story About Two Sons
28 “Tell me what you think about this: A man had two sons. He went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ 29 The son answered, ‘I will not go.’ But later the son changed his mind and went. 30 Then the father went to the other son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘Yes, sir, I will go and work,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two sons obeyed his father?”
The priests and leaders answered, “The first son.”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you do. 32 John came to show you the right way to live. You did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Even after seeing this, you still refused to change your ways and believe him.
Matthew 21: 28-32 (NCV)
This is one of my favorite parables. I constantly find myself going back to it and, honestly, I’m surprised I have never heard it preached. This is not a joke. No one has ever preached this parable in my presence. I wonder why? Are we worried about the implications of a God who forgives those who once rebelled? I don’t know. I ran into it while reading scriptures one day and my jaw fell open. It was so amazing.
“Tell me what you think about this,” he said.
I wonder about our tendency to praise potential over product. At least, I’ve had that tendency. I’m drawn to people with potential more than people who are actually producing fruit.
Permit me to think out loud for a moment.
It could be a combination of things.
- I like to teach, which means I am naturally predisposed to drawing the potential out of people.
- My top 3 love languages have nothing to do with physical things people can do for me or give me. You can wash my car, clean my whole house and buy me shoes but it won’t light me up the same way a conversation, a hug or an “I love you” would. But then it becomes unfair, right? Some people who are genuinely trying to love me find their love overshadowed by others who feed me their grand intentions steeped in zero substance.
What if God was like that?
Thank heavens He is not.
He sees you really trying. If those lofty words mean something, He knows. And if that physical offering means something, He knows. If that grand declaration means nothing, She knows and if that physical offering is void of personal significance, She can tell. We can’t fool God with the aesthetics.
How I pray for wisdom to be like Him.
I have made many mistakes trusting in the person that seemed so amazing because of the promises flowing from his lips like honey. I have chosen the business partner that seemed to know what she was doing and promised me the world. And they have failed me.
But you know who’s a bit better in some cases? The person who doesn’t promise they can do it. Sometimes, they genuinely just want to count the cost. They don’t want to disappoint. So they approach the task at hand with sobriety and because of that, they end up being the most dependable.
I’m learning more and more not to trust the flash in the pan emotional display. I’m learning to trust the slow, steady growing tree that takes the time to dig its roots deep before it emerges to the surface and says, “Yes. Now I am ready.”
Here are some synonyms of “slow” that I quite enjoy: deliberate, unhurried, ponderous, moderate, dreamy…
I used to hate my penchant for questioning everything. I spent so much time deciding on things my peers would breeze through in a second. That is how I am. I get lost in the details. I give in to a little bit of paranoia and allow my mind to run wild with a million scenarios of how things could go given the current variables and their values. It makes me slower at many things – making decisions, getting ready, eating (because that’s also thinking time)… Getting started on anything is a long journey for me. And I didn’t like the way my mind worked but one day, I reflected on how some very technical things came to me naturally: creating a song, building a website, programming, finding the right words to describe that feeling/idea… And my paranoia, questions, and imagination became a gift. I realized my slowness was my strength.
It’s okay to arrive slowly. In some situations, it is genuinely better to question and requestion and go back to the drawing board and pray once more and prepare twice more and buttress thrice more because by the time you arrive? Oh wow. You will be unshakeable. There is nothing like a season of doubt (if you come out of it) to reinforce your faith . Yes, there are no’s that are permanent but sometimes, that no is a maybe. Sometimes, that “no” still finds a son thinking about that thing his father said. Sometimes, that “no” comes from the mouth of a daughter that is sincerely wondering and questioning, not just being a rebel for the fun of it. So let them take their time. Abba allows it.
There is no formula. We just have to walk with our eyes open and watch what people are doing. We can only pray that we will see them as they truly are. We can only ask questions and test the waters. Slowly but surely, what is within will bubble out; what is beneath the ground will break forth; what is hidden will be revealed.
Not all who say “Yes” are dependable and not all that say “No” are horrible. Sometimes, the naysayers are just being brave enough to be honest.
That was a very long tangent. My point is: in the end, you will know who was sincere based on what they did, not just what they said. So let actions speak.
This parable also reminds me of a theme I stumbled upon twice in Ezekiel:
21 Suppose wicked people stop sinning and start obeying my laws and doing right. They won’t be put to death. 22 All their sins will be forgiven, and they will live because they did right. 23 I, the Lord God, don’t like to see wicked people die. I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live.
24 But when good people start sinning and doing disgusting things, will they live? No! All their good deeds will be forgotten, and they will be put to death because of their sins.
25 You people of Israel accuse me of being unfair! But listen—I’m not unfair; you are! 26 If good people start doing evil, they must be put to death, because they have sinned. 27 And if wicked people start doing right, they will save themselves from punishment. 28 They will think about what they’ve done and stop sinning, and so they won’t be put to death. 29 But you still say that I am unfair. You are the ones who have done wrong and are unfair!
30 I will judge each of you for what you’ve done. So stop sinning, or else you will certainly be punished.31 Give up your evil ways and start thinking pure thoughts. And be faithful to me! Do you really want to be put to death for your sins? 32 I, the Lord God, don’t want to see that happen to anyone. So stop sinning and live!
Ezekiel 18:21-32 (CEV)
The theme is also found in Ezekiel 3:17-21 and throughout Ezekiel 18.
Value is not determined in the beginning; it is determined at the end. And thank God for that because it means bad situations can be redeemed.