Newsletter July 2017
Are you a doer?
In Matthew 21:28ff Jesus tells a story of a father who asked his two sons to tend his vines. When he asked the first son to go into the vineyard to work, that son refused to do go. We do not know his reasons for refusing to carry out his father’s request; all we know is that he refused. Maybe he was tired or busy with something else, or maybe he was simply showing disrespect to his father.
Later, however, this son changed his mind and went. Again, we do not know his reasons for changing his mind. Maybe he was troubled by his conscience, realising that the harvest would be spoilt if he did not do his part in breaking up the ground and watering the vines. Neither do we know whether he told his father and brother that he was going – probably not. All we know is that he went.
The father then asked the second son to go to the vineyard. With apparent respect for his father, the second son instantly replied, “I will, sir.” However, as soon as the father turned his back, he changed his mind and did not go.
This second son must have known the consequences of his disobedience. He would have learnt from his father all there was to know about vineyards and grapes. He knew the importance of tending the vineyard. Nonetheless, this seemingly obedient son did not go to work.
We do not know why he failed to obey his father’s request after initially agreeing to do it. Could it have been that he was so busy focusing on his brother’s apparent disobedience that he completely forgot to go himself? Perhaps he was so busy feeling good about himself and complaining about the faults of his brother that he did not notice when that same brother quietly left the house to do the father’s will.
Like the religious people of Jesus’ day, we too are very good at knowing what others should be doing, but often fail to obey God when the opportunity presents itself to us. We may see a need but do not feel that it is our responsibility to tend to it. We may be quite willing to do what brings us acclaim and public recognition, but shy away from those essential tasks that remain unnoticed by others – except by God, who sees in secret (Matthew 6:4). That is why Jesus told this story. We can easily fall into the trap of feeling justified when we focus on what we think others should be doing in God’s vineyard, while we ourselves are doing little or nothing. And consequently, we may fail to notice when the very people we regard with misgiving quietly and faithfully get on with God’s work.
The Apostle James (1:22) exhorts us to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves for (James 2:17) faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Let us therefore show our faith by doing our part. The harvest is ripe, but the labourers are few. (Matthew 9:37) Let us be labourers in God’s vineyard. Let us answer Jesus’ call before the night comes and it is too late for anyone to work. (John 9:4) For all who labour, sowers and reapers alike, will surely receive their wages. (John 4:36) And let us keep looking out for those small practical ways in which we can contribute to building God’s church and His kingdom.