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Matthew 21:28-32

Pastor Audrey Moody

New Beginnings Church of God in Christ

Just when I think I have it altogether, when I think I am finally on the right path, my life, my career, my relationships, my relationship with God are all going well, here comes a simple story about a father and his two sons that challenges me to probe deeply my motives. It asks me to examine honestly my actions. In this parable, Jesus makes incisive statements that cut to the quick my preconceived notions about myself and about my relationship with God and with others.

The scribes and the Pharisees thought for sure that their status counted for something special. They were the chosen people, the religious ones. They did not consider that tax collectors and prostitutes were God’s sons and daughters as well. After all, they were “the other”—from a different walk of life. They were not religious; they were sinners. They were not the privileged ones.

How much, how often do we flaunt our privilege, our privileged status—a status that comes in many different forms, in white privilege, male privilege, white female privilege, Christian privilege? Privilege that give us—so we think—special rights, a special place, a special relationship with God.

Please note—this man had two sons; he was father to both. In no way did he reject the one for the other. In no way did he prefer one over the
other. He only remarked on their behavior; he only observed their obedience, or lack thereof.

Jesus has a great deal to say to us about how we will respond to the truth of the gospel. Will we be the daughter who gives lip service to the mother but who then goes out in rebellion to all she was taught and knows? Will we be the son who says “no” but goes on to do as the father asks? Will we be the church leader who preaches justice and righteousness, but who lives a life cloaked in deceit and greed and who ignores the injustices and poverty in his community?

Our actions speak louder than our words. What we really believe about God and our brothers and sisters will speak forth in our actions. If we believe God to be on the side of the oppressed and marginalized, we will act on that belief. If we believe God to be on the side of the disenfranchised, the outcast, the disinherited, the poverty-stricken, we will act on that belief.

When I examine the Contemporary English Version of this text the nebulous “it” becomes clearer. Jesus wants us to understand that obedience to God is the key to a relationship with God. When we finally understand the nature of the realm of God, we will see that both us and those “other folk” are fit for the kingdom. We are all precious in God’s sight.