The Parable of the Two Sons

“A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. 

– Matthew 21:28-32

The Parable of the Two Sons is a parable told by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. It contrasts the tax collectors and prostitutes who accepted the message taught by John the Baptist with the “religious” people who did not.

The first son initially disobeyed his father’s command by refusing to work in the vineyard, but later he repented and obeyed. In the end, he did the will of his father. While his earlier refusal was a sin, the father was willing to accept the son’s repentance and allow him to serve anyway. So, the son was credited with doing the will of the father in the end. The first son was forgiven, just as we will be forgiven by God, Our Heavenly Father, for doing what is right.

However, the second son did not do the will of his father, though he agreed to. His agreement was a lie, and his failure to go was evidence that he never intended to do the father’s will. So not only did the second son fail to obey the word of his father, but he also lied about his intentions, which showed him to be a hypocrite.

The moral of this parable by Jesus is the second son was a picture of the hypocritical Pharisees, who claimed to do the will of the Father in Heaven yet did not obey God’s word. Jesus says that these men will not be in the Kingdom of God, while lessor Jews like prostitutes would be in the Kingdom because they repented and accepted Jesus as the Messiah, which resulted in their forgiveness. 

So, the first son exemplifies sinners who will enter into Heaven by repenting and obeying the Gospel. In contrast, the second son represents the hypocrites, the self-righteous religious leaders who talk about serving God but live in disobedience to God’s Word. In this example, the people who look the least religious will enter God’s kingdom ahead of religious leaders, because, in the end, they did God’s will.

The parable reminds us that actions speak louder than words. Many churches and Christian organizations claim their mission is to spread Christianity and God’s love, but many times, they only spread hate, especially when it comes to homophobia. There is a spiritual battle today among Christians. Some of us believe in Jesus and His Great Commandment from Matthew 22:37-39:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

However, instead of following God’s Word, some follow false teachers Jesus who warned against in Matthew 7:15-20:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, you will recognize them by their fruits.

Today’s false teachers (among other fanatics out there) erroneously profess their delusion that our current president is sent from God. They claim he is like King David in the Old Testament. But what does that mean, and how could they possibly conceive of such nonsense? According to the Old Testament, David had a weakness for women. As David conquered surrounding territories through a series of wars and his kingdom grew, he took on more wealth — and more wives and concubines. His descent into sin began one night when David was on his palace’s rooftop and saw a beautiful lady named Bathsheba bathing. She was married to Uriah the Hittite, a soldier fighting in David’s army. This did not discourage David, and he sent messengers to get her. When she was brought to him, he seduced her, and she became pregnant. To cover his sin, David arranged to have Uriah killed while the soldier was fighting a group called the Ammonites. In 2 Samuel 11:14-15, David wrote a letter to one of his commanders telling him to “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” After Uriah was killed, David took Bathsheba to be one of his wives.

We are told God was furious with David and sent a prophet named Nathan to deliver David a message: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.'” (2 Samuel 12:10) The remainder of David’s rule was filled with tragedy. David and Bathsheba’s first child died. (But their second child, named Solomon, survived and later became king of Israel.) David also faced multiple rebellions, including one led by his son Absalom. While David succeeded in stopping the rebellion, Absalom was killed in battle, and David mourned his death. In David’s final year of rule, fighting broke out over who would succeed him. To resolve the issue, David had to get up from his deathbed to announce that Solomon would be king.

David was undoubtedly flawed, but we are told that David loved God no matter his later flaws, and God loved David. The problem with the comparison is that David and Trump are nothing alike. While Trump would like to be king, he is not. Trump also gained great wealth through dishonest business conquests; he is not a great warrior or leader, as David is said to have been. Trump is a philanderer just as David was, but Trump does not love God. Trump consistently lies, cheats, steals, and flaunts the laws of our nation. His evangelical followers are completely deceived by a dangerous con man. They cannot conceive that he could do any wrong because he claims to be anti-abortion. Abortion seems to be the only word that makes people who claim to follow Jesus disregard everything Jesus taught over an issue Jesus never discussed. We know that abortion was practiced in biblical times. In his Theaetetus, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato mentions a midwife’s ability to induce abortion in the early stages of pregnancy. So, while it was a known practice, Jesus never discussed it or even alluded to the practice. 

When the history of Trump’s presidency is written, it will not look kindly on him or his administration. It will also not look kindly on Trump’s evangelical supporters, just as it does not look kindly on the antebellum Christians who used the Bible to justify slavery or any myriad of other offenses to God advocated by people who profess to be Christian. No matter how pious they claim to be, these evangelical Trump supporters will always be on the wrong side of history. Just as Matthew 7:21-23 says,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Those of us who love our neighbor as ourselves and believe in equality and charity are derided continuously by the evangelical Trump cultists for supporting a party which believes in egalitarianism, social equality, protecting the environment, and strengthening the social safety net through liberalism. These are all things that align with the teachings contained in the Sermon on the Mount. As Democrats, we support voting rights and minority rights, especially LGBTQ+ rights, multiculturalism, and religious secularism, while Trump supporters advocate fear, anger, discord, and discrimination. I know there are some Democrats for whom Joe Biden was not their first choice. Still, just as the first son in the parable went to work in the vineyard after telling his father he wouldn’t, we need to rally around Joe Biden to defeat Donald Trump no matter who we initially supported. However, we cannot be like Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, who derided Trump before he became president, but now cannot show enough support for him. They are like the second son who said the right thing initially and opposed the egomaniacal bully, but currently support him and have turned against everything they professed they believed.

Let us be like the first son! Let us follow through and support Joe Biden because he is what this country needs right now. Contrary to the beliefs of the evangelical Christian right, we are loved by God, and we will prevail.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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