The Gospel from this past Sunday, September 27th, 2020 was the parable of a man who owned a vineyard and his two sons (Matthew 21:28–32). Jesus described how the father went to the first son and asked him to go out and work in the vineyard. The son was belligerent and said “NO”, but he then changed his mind, he repented and went. The father then goes to the second son. He is outwardly very cooperative and polite and promises to do the work, but then he does NOT do what he agreed to. Jesus then asks the chief priests and elders which son they believe was the one of the two that DID the father’s will, and they answered saying “the first”.
It occurred to me that this parable was particularly timely, as God’s Word always is, because it came the Sunday before the 1st 2020 Presidential Debate. As I watched the debate it was very frustrating because it was obvious to me that the format was horrible, and the questions were unbalanced. Besides that, it seemed that one candidate was more belligerent and the other more congenial (except for the name calling). I hear a lot of people comparing the candidates only using terms related to their demeanor, their style of communication, or their personality, but Christ in the parable last Sunday clearly shows that we should not just look at what someone appears to be, but how they “are”. How do we judge how someone “is”? Obviously, it is how they “act” or their “actions”. Does action only refer to the way they communicate or in the actual work they accomplish; the fruit of their work. Communication is important. It makes it much more difficult when someone is not good at communication, for us to judge them justly. Yet, it is possible. One can be “bad” at communicating and not be a “bad” person. The second son in the parable would seem to be the more congenial of the two, because he said he would obey the father, but he didn’t do the work. The first son seemed to be the more belligerent, because he told his father “NO”, but he did the work. I hope by now the parallels are apparent, but I will make a few more points. If we are to follow what Christ is teaching us, we reasonably should judge the candidates based on the work they accomplished.
Now, this leads us to the next dilemma in our judgment of the candidates. Knowledge of the work accomplished by the two candidates, then becomes of utmost importance. If you didn’t care for the first son in the parable because of his attitude to the father, but the father never told you he did the work, and if you heard from another family member or friend that the first son didn’t do the work, then you would naturally judge him unjustly without being aware of it. But, let’s say you decided to find out for yourself, not wanting to judge without proof and you asked the father directly whether the son did the work. You were able to find out that the work the first son had accomplished was greater than the second son. Therefore, his attitude would have to be evaluated based on his action, not just how he appeared. This is the reason why I believe it is so important for us to find out for ourselves, by actively seeking truth, without bias, or preconceived notions. I find that this is the way to go, whether you are Christian or not. Naturally, the second son in the parable has every opportunity to repent and do the work, but if we are hiring him for a vineyard job, it seems prudent to choose the first son. Jesus tells us that we should love one another, and love does not assume the worst about anyone, even in the midst of turmoil. I surely don’t presume to know the intentions or the thoughts of either candidate, but I do know their records. This does not mean that we should just lay back without lovingly criticizing, expecting improvement in communication, and disagreeing with portions of the agenda. We should continue to evaluate the work, the policies, and voice our opinions about specific things that we have issue with. I don’t believe that either candidate is perfect, but I do know how to evaluate the work that they have both accomplished and decide which candidate is MORE LIKELY to actually “DO” the will of the Father.