“But what do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go, work in the vineyard today.’
“He answered, ‘I don’t want to!’ Yet later he changed his mind and went.
Then the man went to the other and said the same thing. “‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go.
”Which of the two did his father’s will?”
“The first,” they said.
Matthew 21:28-31 HCSB
I got back to this parable over and over again. And today, the Lord is using it to illustrate anew my poisonous and false belief that unless something is done perfectly – all the way through – then it has no merit.
Have you ever dealt with people who are impossible to please? Every time you think you’ve managed to do something right, they move the goal posts on you, and you’re the fool who lost again. Sound familiar? It should, because Satan does it regularly—and we let him. Even when I’m obedient, he comes and whispers all the reasons that my obedience is worthless and how I should just give up all together. It can be maddening.
Martha told me once that God was infinitely less concerned with her feelings and struggles over a decision than He was in the decision she actually made. My pride cannot comprehend such a thing. The first time I read the above parable, I was both offended and in despair—pride, pride, pride. I see it differently now, though. They were both jerks: disrespectful-jerk and liar-jerk. But Jesus is concerned with which son actually did his father’s will, not which son was a decent guy. And that’s because neither was a decent guy!
What is at stake is my decision. Sometimes the Cross requires a relatively small death, and sometimes the death is huge and so is my Gethsemane. Satan seems intent on demeaning the importance of my choice, and the value of my will, by focusing on my process instead. But my will is what God watches for, because my life turns on my decisions.
Love is really quite visceral. It’s commitment, and commitment is a daily thing. To commit to Jesus Christ is to love Him, and I’m learning to appreciate more and more that love is not just a bunch of feelings and poetry and sweeping symphonies. It’s mundane obedience, a “yes” that’s more than just a word. Loving God is choosing Him when no one else is watching, and bowing my will even when He’s the only one who sees.
Without free will, you and I are automatons, slaves to be directed and having no ability to love. My will is very valuable, and so is yours. It is our gift from God, and I think it matters more than we can comprehend. I’m choosing not to listen to the enemy’s accusations; I want to let God tell me how He feels about me today.
For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands.
Now His commands are not a burden…
1 John 5:3 HCSB