This week’s Gospel is directed at men who believe themselves to be ‘God’s Best’ – ‘God’s Favorites’ – ‘God’s Important Leaders and Teachers’. The ‘chief priest’s and elder’s of the people’ who challenge Jesus’ authority in this week’s Gospel have inflated egos, and perceive Jesus to be nothing but a fraud because he associates with (sinners) prostitutes and tax collectors. We might say that their own sense of self-importance and worthiness blinds them to God’s ways and Jesus’ message, They judge only by appearances and their own inflated sense of self-worth and holiness.These are not humble holy people, but self-important querulous men, who consider others to be well beneath themselves in holiness and goodness.
Jesus has little time or respect for their self’ important critical ways, and tells them a little story about two sons:
A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I am going,sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” (Matt 21: 28-32)
The first son (reflecting the sinners Jesus associates with in his ministry) is far from perfect ,and he verbally refuses to respect his father’s authority and wishes. No,”I will not,” he says to his father, but then changes his mind and fulfills his father’s wishes. The second son (reflecting the challengers) appears respectful and obedient, but ultimately ignores his father’s request. He says ‘Yes’ with his mouth, but ‘no’, by his actions. When Jesus asks them which one did the father’s will, they say the first. In that case, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” By his response, he is telling them that looks can be deceiving. Just because someone is a sinner, doesn’t mean that there is little or no hope for them. In fact, it is the other way around. It is those with the puffed up attitude of perfection – the better than others syndrome – for which there is much less hope. Yes, the saying in the title is correct: Pride goes before a fall. Pride cuts us off from others, ourselves, and from God and God’s ways.
Here is a little story that might help:
A man received a promotion to the position of Vice President of the company he worked for. The promotion went to his head, and for weeks on end he bragged to anyone and everyone that he was now VP. His bragging came to an abrupt halt when his wife, so embarrassed by his behaviour, said, “Listen Bob, it’s not that big a deal. These days everyone’s a vice president. Why they even have a vice president of peas down at the supermarket!”
Somewhat deflated, Bob telephoned the local supermarket to find out if this was true. “Can I speak to the Vice President of peas please?” he asked, to which the reply came: “of fresh or frozen?”