A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. (Matthew 21:28-30)
In the parable, the second son seems much more familiar to me than the first one. “Son, go and work in my vineyard.” “Yes, sir!”
Then: Well, let me just eat this donut before I go. Let me watch five more minutes of the Today Show. Just a quick facebook check. Let’s see, Google, who won that game last night? You know what, working in the vineyard does not exactly put all my real talents to use. I haven’t had a day off in quite a while. Let me just take a quick little nap before I head out…
See what I mean? We can write the script for the second son—who said he would, but didn’t. The un-kept promises of weak-willed individuals litter the earth like empty plastic water bottles, after all.
But the first son? “Son, go and work in my vineyard.” No.
The boy had an attitude. An unusually strong negative attitude. Maybe he had multiple earrings and hair dyed blue. Let’s give him this: He engaged in no flimflam; he just said No. Can’t you see I’m a rebel? I’m edgy. I ain’t about to conform to your vineyard-working conventional bourgeoisie existence, dad!
But, then the first son changed his mind. Maybe he pulled his nose out of his video game for two seconds and saw that the sun shone beautifully on the rows of grape vines outside, and he could see himself out there, alongside his father.
Or maybe we could use a Star Wars analogy? On Tatooine, Luke Skywalker had an attitude about working Uncle Owen’s farm. But then, when the storm troopers came, Luke embraced his true destiny.
Anyway, that’s divine mercy. He gives us adequate time to think better of ourselves. We can have all the attitude in the world, but then, if we cry out, ‘Abba, Father, forgive me. I want to serve You, as I was made to do, so that I can really be happy!’ Then it’s like the No we initially gave never happened.