This passage tells a story that is quite simple–it doesn’t have a very complicated plot.
A man had two sons (v. 28)
The father gave an imperative to both of his sons–“Go work today in the field” (v. 28b, 30)
Son #1 said “No” at first, but later regretted and obeyed (v. 29)
Son #2 said “Yes” at first, but ultimately disobeyed (v. 30)
Basic Listening Comprehension Test
Next, Jesus asks a question to test the listening comprehension of His audience composed of the chief priests, the elders of the people, and the Pharisees (v. 23, 45)–“Which of the two [sons] did the will of the father?”
And what did they respond? Surprise, surprise–they passed with flying colors! They responded, “The first [son].”
What Jesus says next is not a congratulatory remark for their correct understanding of the story, but harsh words of indictment: “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you” (v. 31).
What? How can that be? How can immoral people such as tax collectors and prostitutes get into the kingdom of God before the righteous (or so they appear to be) Pharisees, elders, and chief priests? What does God want? What is “the will of the Father?” Are God’s standards arbitrary? Continue reading Matthew 21:28-32 – What God Wants
The rapper Lecrae mentions this passage in his song with the same title; one of the most influential Christian books in my life was John Piper’s book of the same name:
DON’T WASTE YOUR LIFE
In this passage, Jesus teaches that every form of greed is dangerous and deadly. It is a waste of life. Greed is dangerous and deadly because even when greed is satisfied and fulfilled, when an abundance is had, the greedy individual is blinded to the condition of his soul. He is a ripe candidate for becoming Satan’s latest victim among millions (if not billions), and is just asking to be devoured by the prowling and roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). Continue reading Luke 12:15-21 – Don’t Waste Your Life
A synagogue official comes before Jesus in desperation because his daughter just died. What’s the big deal? This kind of thing happens every day, right? (No!) Why is it recorded in the Bible? Continue reading Matthew 9:18 – Faith
The heart of this passage is worship and obedience to God. The hand, foot, and eye are symbols used to represent any stumbling device in the believer’s life. Additionally, these may seem as core, essential, and very important parts of the body–no one would really cut off his own hand or foot, or gouge out his own eye without a good reason!
However, consider when one of those body parts are gangrenous or have been infected with a mass of malignant cancer cells. Unless that part is amputated, the deadly disease would spread to other parts of the body, and the person would eventually die. If you ever meet an amputee or a person blind in one eye, you would be able to see that they can still live and perform daily life functions with some mechanical assistance. This is evidence that the person doesn’t need a seemingly very important body part to live.
Jesus wasn’t just talking about body parts, though. The hand, foot, and eye can represent any sin or thing (situations, people, places, activities, substances, etc) in a believer’s life which cause him to sin. Sometimes, we see things in our lives as important and essential, and as things that we cannot give up. We must cut away those stumbling blocks and obstacles to our worship of God without any hesitation (Hebrews 12:1; Psalm 119:59-60), and trust that what God offers to us is far greater than the passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25).
This passage is intense. To do it justice, it would have to be presented in more than one entry, and I propose at least four:
Matthew 7:13-14 – Genuine Path
Matthew 7:15-20 – Genuine Fruit
Matthew 7:21-23 – Genuine Discipleship
Matthew 7:24-27 – Genuine Obedience
One cannot approach this passage lightly. Each section or pericope talks about the quality of the characteristic in question belonging to the proclaiming Christian individual, and also the consequence of that. Narrow or broad gate? Good or bad fruit? Doing the will of the Father or doing what you think is the will of the Father, but isn’t? Hearing Jesus’ words and acting on them throughout the rest of your life, or not?
Think carefully, but not without taking action, because there are serious consequences. Life or destruction? Bear good fruit or be cut down and thrown into the fire? Enter the kingdom of heaven or be sorely disappointed, and worse, rejected and denied entrance by its Master? Having your house stand or fall–and a great fall at that?
In future entries we’ll look at each of these sections more closely, but here is some food for thought:
When all is said and done, at the end of the day or at the end of your life, what will the Lord say? What has He seen? He sees not as man sees.
If there is “bad fruit” in your life (and I know there are not a few in mine), how do you explain that? Are you walking by the Spirit or the flesh (Galatians 3:3)? Are you a child of God, and therefore, a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)?
How do I know if I am actually doing the will of the Father, and not just “Christian things” that I think are in His will? Historically, we have proven to be quite the self-deceivers, so we are also at risk of unwittingly adopting a non-gospel in the works-based righteousness (which is no righteousness at all) attitudes like the false teachers and having a false assurance of salvation (Matthew 7:15).
Do you really want to see your life and everything you’ve built up come crashing down at the end–for eternity, with no looking back and no reparations?
If you’re not sure about your eternal destiny, or if the pattern of your life doesn’t match the pattern of a regenerate person that Christ outlines in this passage, then I have one word for you: Repentance. With humility approach the throne of grace and be in awe that the merciful Lord Jesus Christ would bestow it upon you, a wretched sinner.
This call to repentance is for myself as much as it is for the reader, which is the whole point of this site: Awe and Reverence. Again, to reiterate its purpose, it is not for me to speak from “up here” to you “down there,” but to speak to myself that I actually am “down there” and that I need to stay “down there,” and the only way “up” is through the Lord Jesus Christ.