I like to do crossword puzzles. Most of the time I like the challenge of figuring things. But sometimes, I get frustrated and just want someone to tell me the answer so I get on to another part of the puzzle. I am pretty sure Jesus would have been that annoying person that would never let you peak at the answers and would just keep giving you clues.
Read Matthew 21: 23-32
This passage starts with Jesus, who while teaching in the temple, is being called out by the chief priests and elders. They want to know "by what authority" he is teaching. Jesus engages them in some questions that cause them to argue among themselves and admit they don't know the answers.
Then Jesus says probably the coolest thing ever - "What do you think?" He could flip out because he is being challenged.
But doesn't give in and give them any answers. He goes on to tell a story about a father and his two sons. Both sons were asked to go work in the vineyard. One says no - but later changes his mind and goes to do the work. The other says yes- but then never goes to do the work.
So is this story about obedience?
Is it a story about accountability?
What do you think?
I know I have been both of those sons. You probably have, too. Is it worse to commit to something then never follow through? Or say no way, and then later change your mind?
One Bible commentary I read suggests that Jesus is giving a nod in this story to sinners who repent and then try to do better, like the first son. And that's its worse in God's eye to just say the right thing without openly doing the father's will.
Here's an entirely different thought - this story makes me think about the people that I know that say they don't believe in God yet live very kind, compassionate, and "Christian" lives. And I think about the people I know that are the opposite. People that attend church and speak the language but don't put God first. I have been both of these people as well. "You can go stand in the garage but that doesn't make you a car," is something my high school youth leader used to say.
What's so cool for me about this passage is that Jesus, again, doesn't answer the question and seems to be encouraging the chief priests and the elders to figure it. I think our relationship with God can be fuller and deeper if we allow ourselves to do the hard work of asking questions. learning, and struggling with the hard stuff in the Bible. Coming to our faith on our own terms seems to me to be more authentic than loving God because it's expected and because we are told that's what we ought to do.
So, keep asking those questions - and I will keep asking "What do you think?"