Have Your Cake Afterall

Have Your Cake Afterall September 27, 2020

I’m over at Stand Firm today.

One of the essential features of being human is that we all—without exception—want to have it both ways. We want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to argue on the internet and be right. We want to accuse others of being literally Hitler without being Hitler ourselves. In short, we want to talk out of both sides of our mouths and not be caught in any kind of internal, or even external, inconsistency.

“What do you think?” asks Jesus, gazing around at a crowd of religious elders who will very shortly organize themselves and the whole city to kill him. He’s just cleared out the temple, and cursed the fig tree, and come into Jerusalem in triumph, and now, in these brief days before his death, he wants, again, to hold the truth before the eyes of all humanity. “What do you think?” he asks,

“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?”

The answer is clear, of course. It doesn’t matter what you say, if you don’t do the thing that you say you’re going to do, you don’t get credit for doing it. I try to point this out to my children all the time. I say, “Someone go clean the kitchen!” and then they immediately all disappear into the bowels of the house “to study” or they begin a violent argument about what “someone” even means. Which “someone” did it last time? It’s not fair if the “someone” turns out to be any of them.

All the people hanging around in the temple that afternoon, though, wouldn’t have been caught in that little trap of mine. They would have said, without guile, that they both said they were going to the vineyard, and then that they did in fact go into the vineyard. They would have believed this with all the moral complacency of Greta Thunberg or even Franklin Graham. I believe in the thing I’m doing, and I am doing the thing that I believe. There is no problem here. Except that there are all kinds of problems, because of who the Father is and what the vineyard represents. Jesus waits, and finally, the leaders of Israel say the answer:

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.”

The leaders of Israel stagger back in their wroth. Those are the people who won’t be getting in, no matter what they say. Their obtrusions into the life of Jesus—showing up to dinner, washing his feet, begging him for mercy—didn’t indicate anything at all to any of them. A wicked person is wicked, that’s just how it is.

Indeed, wicked people being wicked is one of the ways everyone gets to have it both ways. Because you are never the wicked person, and so everything that you do and say—whether it be good or bad, it doesn’t really matter—gets filtered through the grid of your own essential goodness…read the rest here!

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