In today’s gospel reading, Jesus has an altercation with some religious authorities and then tells a parable:
Jesus continued, “What do you think? There was a landowner who had two children. The landowner approached the elder and said, ‘My child, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ This first child replied, ‘No, I won’t,’ but afterwards regretted it and went. The landowner then came to the second child and said the same thing. The second child said in reply, ‘I’m on my way,’ but never went. Which of the two did what was wanted?”
They said, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “The truth is, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:28-31, The Inclusive Bible)
There’s a key point we’re missing from this story. Jesus asks what they think about it, and then tosses away their answer – but he never tells us what he thinks. Could it be that the second child actually did what the landowner wanted? Or maybe it’s that neither of them did the right thing? Jesus doesn’t clarify for us because it doesn’t matter.
We are all sent out into God’s vineyard (factory, stockroom, cubicle farm) with a job to do. And in this story, we are both children. Sometimes we agree to do God’s work and then fail miserably; other times we rebel from God’s call and end up doing her work anyway.
But whether we do “what was wanted” or not, remember this: both children belong to the landowner. Jesus doesn’t tell us which child was right because there is no answer. We are still acting out the story and being gathered into the reign of God.