Summary: Ideally, when a Christian's profession and practice meet... it's a match.
Title: Is God a “Tiger” Parent?
Text: Matthew 21:23-32
Thesis: Ideally, when a Christian’s profession and practice meet… it’s a match!
The meat of our story today is about a father who had two sons whom he asked to work in his vineyard.
Adrian Rogers, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention told about a man who made his sons work in his corn field while their friends were all at the swimming hole. Someone scolded the father asking, “Why do you make those boys work so hard? You don’t need all that corn.” The father replied, “Sir, I’m not raising corn. I’m raising boys.” (Marvin Hein, The Christian Leader, Nov. 21, 1989. Christianity Today, Vol 34, no. 2)
The father in our story owned a vineyard but he was also raising boys. We don’t know if his intent was to build character and discipline into the lives of his sons or if he really needed to have his sons do some necessary work in the vineyard. We only know that he asked both sons to go to work and Jesus made a spiritual point from the ways the boys responded to their father’s request.
There is really nothing subtle about the story. There is no hidden meaning. Jesus clearly says that there are two kinds of people:
• Some people, like one of the man’s sons, say they are good religious people but ultimately aren’t.
• Some people, like the man’s other son, make no pretenses of being religious but ultimately are.
The first group of people are those who “talk the talk but do not walk the walk.” In Matthew 21:30 we meet the first group of people.
I. People whose profession is better than their practice.
“Then the father went to the other son and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go.” Matthew 21:30
The father asked this son to go into the vineyard to work. The son was all good-son-like and readily agreed. “Sure Pop. I’ll get right at it.” But he never made it to the vineyard. He ultimately was not obedient to his father’s wishes.
These are people who began well... they were headed in the right direction but got sidetracked along the way and ended up not really following God. Like the good boy they are good people. We might say of them, “They meant well.”
One of the Ad Council’s most effective public service commercials is the “Don’t Almost Give” campaign. One ad shows a man with crutches struggling to go up a flight of steps. The narrator says, “This man almost learned to walk at a rehab center that almost got built by people who almost gave money.” After a pause the narrator continues, “Almost gave. How good is almost giving? About as good as almost walking.”
Another ad shows a homeless man curled up in a ball atop a pile of rags… he is covered with a ratty bed sheet. The narrator begins, “This is Jack Thomas. Today someone almost bought Jack something to eat. Someone almost brought him to a shelter. Someone almost gave him a warm blanket.” Then after a pause the narrator drives his point home, “And Jack Thomas? Well, he almost made it through the night.” (PreachingToday.com; source: YouTube.com Ad # 1 Man on Crutches and Ad #2 Homeless Man)
Almost giving is not giving. Almost helping is not helping. Almost is the same as not at all! If I were to skip work a few days and then show up one morning announcing that I almost got up and went to work those days… you would say, “Almost doesn’t cut it!”
I am a creature of habit and one of the things I need to complete my daily ritual is to open my front door and find the Denver Post on my doorstep. Almost delivering the paper is not the same as delivering the paper. I almost had my paper this morning when I left the house at 6:45. Almost having a paper is not the same as having a paper.
Promises are just that promises. Good intentions are only good intentions. There is an old saying that has been going around for almost forever… “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
The second group of people, as illustrated by the example of the other son, do not talk the talk but they do walk the walk.
II. People whose practice is better than their profession.
“The father went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ He answered, ‘I will not,’ but later he changed his mind and went.’” Matthew 21:29
This son probably kept his parents up at night worrying themselves silly. He said he would be home by midnight but at one a.m. his father and mother are lying in bed wide awake with worry. He’s the black sheep of the family. He is the bad boy.