Friday, May 4

A wake up call for the religious

Scripture: 2 Samuel 8-9, 1 Chronicles 18-19, Matthew 21

Matthew 21:28-32 “But what do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go, work in the vineyard today.’  

29 “He answered, ‘I don’t want to!’ Yet later he changed his mind and went. 30 Then the man went to the other and said the same thing. 

‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go. 

31 “Which of the two did his father’s will?” 

“The first,” they said. 

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you! 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness,  and you didn’t believe him. Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him, but you, when you saw it, didn’t even change your minds then and believe him. 

Observation

Jesus is speaking with the chief priests, the elders, the Pharisees—the religious elite.  He challenges them head on—speaking truth to power.

In this short parable, Jesus makes a clear distinction between saying you will do something, and actually doing it.  The religious elite said the right things, but didn’t do them.  They talked the talk without walking the walk.  

What Jesus said next was shocking: “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you!”  The most irreligious, immoral outsiders were entering God’s kingdom before the religious elite!  Stunning!  Why?  Because they believed John the Baptist’s message and repented, while the self-righteous did not believe or change.  

Application

This should be a wake up call to religious people (like me) in two ways.

First, doing God’s will is more important than just knowing and saying the right things.  Our faith is ultimately expressed in what we do.  If we believe in God, we do what He wants.  It’s easy to talk; it’s hard to do.  I was reminded of that yesterday.  I was reading Bob Goff, and he said, “It’s easy to say, ‘love your enemies’ until you have one.”  I highlighted that.  Within an hour, I was part of very sad text string with someone who has decided to treat me like an enemy.  Suddenly, loving an enemy was very real, and very difficult.  But there’s no point saying it if you’re not going to do it.  God is giving me a chance to do it!  

Second, religious people need to repent too.  The religious people of Jesus’ day were self-righteous, exclusive, judgmental, unloving, blind, and hard-hearted (among other things).  These sins kept them from hearing and believing John’s message, and then Jesus’ message.  These sins kept them out of the kingdom, because they kept them from Jesus!  They needed to repent and believe.  These sins are also common among religious people today—including me.  Our religion can keep us from God!

Prayer: Lord, help me to do what You want—especially love my enemies.  And keep me humble—always willing to repent and learn from You.