Summary: Jesus calls his children to work in the vineyard, and reprimands those who think they are most willing with their lack of true service.
September 25, 2005 Matthew 21:28-32
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ”‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Are you Ready to Work in the Vineyard?
I have never worked in a vineyard. The closest experience I might have to it is picking cherry tomatoes in my backyard. Something tells me that as far as the manual labor would be concerned, it couldn’t be a lot of fun. The sun would most likely be beating down on you, as you would have to meticulously walk from plant to plant - picking the grapes off of each vine without ruining the vine. Then, you would have to carry the vines back to the vat. After a time, the very smell of the grapes and the feel of them would probably make you noxious. Your legs, arms, shoulders and fingers would wear down from the day to day grind.
In the parable for today, the man with two sons had a vineyard that he wanted them to work in. No doubt, they had been brought up in the family business, and they knew the work involved in it. Although the pay may have been very acceptable, the work in order to get the pay would require a tremendous sacrifice. Whereas they may not have wanted the business that their father had worked so hard to establish to go to naught, the commitment involved would not just be a temporary thing. Just like a farmer or a restaurant owner in today’s world, it would involve a lifetime’s worth of sacrifice and not a whole lot of free time.
When God calls His creation to be His children through faith - this is no easy task. It is not a part time job where we serve in God’s army as the National Guard’s “weekend warriors.” In Matthew 10 Jesus made this clear.
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Anyone who reads the Bible can see very clearly that doesn’t call us to an easy life of service in the “vineyard”. God’s Word talks of sacrifice, undivided attention, and absolute commitment to His words and His ways.
The two sons understood this in the parable. Therefore, the one son - understanding the commitment that working in the vineyard involved, was honest with his father. He plainly said, “I won’t.” Jesus compared this son with the prostitutes and the tax collectors. Anybody with any sort of a conscience in their society knew that these two “professions” were disgusting. The one sold the body for money, the other sold honesty for money. It was a blatantly immoral way to get the almighty dollars. The only other way would be through an honest day’s wages, which was a lot harder and more difficult. Knowing this, at some time in their life they said, “I don’t care. Life is much easier if I just do it this way. If anyone wants to judge me for my lifestyle, that’s their problem, not mine.” The tax collectors and prostitutes represented both sides of the spectrum - one living in the filth of life with a disinterest in “godly living,” while the other lived in the high money of society with a similar disinterest in “godly living.” They were both blatant in their rejection of God’s will. They knew what God wanted them to do, and they basically said, “nope, I’m not going to live that way.”
A part of me thinks, “even though their lifestyles are despicable, at least they’re honest about it.” “What! How can I say such a thing!”, you ask? It’s because I’m frustrated. Frustrated with myself, my congregation, this world of Christians - as we try to talk Christianity down to a National Guard mentality - a weekend warrior kind of thing. We talk so much in sermons about persecution, trials, and all of the things we go through here in America - and a part of us loves to jump on the recent hurricanes and talk about how rough we have it. All the while we go back to our air conditioned homes, watch our big screen TV’s and enjoy our café latte’s at the local Starbucks. So with a tinge of guilt we send ten dollars down to New Orleans and pat ourselves on the back for having “made the sacrifice.” We do these little things to try and convince ourselves that we’re really giving all we can - as “good Christians”.