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

Who is doing the Father’s will? In Matthew 21:28-32, we read Jesus’ lesson to the chief priests and elders of the people, once more reminding them – and us – what it means to do God’s will.

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the Kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

This is an existential question for the Church at large today: Who is actually doing the Father’s will? The person who quotes the laws and holds them above others, while falling short himself? Or the one who falls short of the laws, yet hears God’s word and seeks to live better? The one who condemns the least infraction, or the one who loves despite infractions? Who pleases God most, the one who displays himself as perfect in the eyes of God, or the one who humbles himself before God as a poor sinner?

Jesus has been pretty clear on these questions. In scripture, we see that God is not impressed with those who parade themselves around as pious and self-righteous. We see that He condemns not the sinner, but the impostor. And He saves His greatest condemnation for those who rail against others instead of loving them.

How do we treat one another? Not just those who believe as we do, not just those who live as we think they should live, not just those who look like we look or speak like we speak, but who are none the less the children of God? Jesus condemned those who put themselves above others, time after time, in example after example. And Jesus lived a life serving others, providing an example of how we are to treat others among us.

Some in the public eye parade around with signs proclaiming, “God hates” one group or another. I’m pretty sure Jesus never once used the word “hate.” In fact, just the opposite; he carefully used the word “love.” We are to love: God and one another. That is God’s will. Rather than judging one another, our job is to judge whether we are loving enough.

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