Sometimes taking instruction isn’t as easy as it sounds.
When my sons were small, we often read Richard Scarry’s Pig Will and Pig Won’t . It’s a story in contrasts, much like the Highlights magazine feature, “Goofus and Gallant.” Pig Won’t is given instructions, and he refuses to follow them; Pig Will, however, does the things he is told to do. Naturally, we emphasized Pig Will: life goes better when we recognize authority and respond appropriately.
I was reminded of this story when I read Matthew 21:28 – 32, “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.”
Now, this parable had a very clear meaning in its day. Jesus Christ pointed out that the Jewish leaders had promised to obey God, and yet did not do so, while those who had chosen not to obey later changed their minds and obeyed. As Barclay’s Commentary indicates, neither of these examples is necessarily one to entirely emulate—neither listened to their Father’s words, agreed to obey them, and then went out and completely did it.
As parents, we have tried to make sure that when we instruct our children to do things, the instructions make sense, take into account the child’s limitations (whether time, or strength, or height), and are not burdensome. In a sense, we try to create yokes for them that are easy, burdens that are light—as Christ has done for us (Matthew 11:30).
But in this relationship, there are two positions: that of the one giving instructions, and that of the one receiving them. We’ve seen both of the examples used by Christ in our children’s lives; sometimes, an instruction is accepted and then forgotten or rejected. Sometimes, the instruction is initially rejected, but then later receives follow-through. Both are frustrating to the parent!
I think that there is an additional lesson in this parable of Christ. We should, as those who have taken His name, strive to not just hear the instructions He gives, but to follow them—and not with half-hearted steps, or hearts that constantly flit from “yes” to “no” and back again. Instead, we should seek to be sons and daughters who, when being told to go work in the vineyard, agree…and then do it.
How do we do this? First, we recognize that God has the authority to give us direction. Next, we recognize that since we are under His authority, we ought to do something about His directions. As part of this process, we must also recognize that His directions are given for a reason; God is not a fickle tyrant, setting up increasingly higher bars for us to leap over for His amusement. He is interested in our growth and development, even as we parents give instructions to our children that are designed to train them and help them grow in good traits and character. And finally, we must act, and do so with our whole hearts.
For more information on submitting to the will of God, request a free copy of Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion .