Two Sons


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The Parable of the Two Sons

    What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, "Son, go and work today in the vineyard."

    "I will not," he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

    Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, "I will, sir," but he did not go.

    Which of the two did what his father wanted? -- Matthew 21:28-31

This is one of the more difficult of Christ's parables, perhaps because Jesus was speaking to the chief priests and elders. The Scribes and Pharisees exhibited deeply rooted prejudice against the Lord's teaching, trying to trip him up, hoping to find some charge they may levy against him.

Jesus often self-convicted them, overwhelming them with confusion from their own mouths. We have an instance of this in this parable. In order to demonstrate their perverseness, Christ addressed this parable to them, and by their own confessions, he involved them in self-condemnation.

The reasonable commands of the father

"Son, go and work today in the vineyard."

  • The nature of the command
    • To work in the vineyard
      • Man was intended for labor
      • Even in Eden, our first parents were called to it
      • Laziness is harmful to the body, soul, spirit, and reputation
      • Labor is dignified, and good for health and enjoyment of life
    • The command was reasonable and proper
      • God calls men to do the work of the kingdom
      • God calls men to work out their own salvation
  • The workplace
    • The father's vineyard
      • A place in which the sons were personally invested
    • God's vineyard is the church
      • A place where Christians should be personally invested
  • The manner in which the command was given
    • Nothing harsh or tyrannical
    • Speaks with authority of a parent
    • Addresses each as his son
    • God is not only the father of our being, but the source of all our mercies
  • The period of labor asked
    • Today
      • Daytime is work time
    • Life is the day for Christian work

The answers of the sons

  • The first said, "I will not."
    • Disobedience
    • Insolence
    • Rebellion
  • The second said, "I will, sir."
    • Respect
    • Submission
    • Promised obedience

The conduct of the sons


  • The rebellious one become penitent and obedient
    • Not unlike the sinners to whom John the Baptist preached
    • Not unlike the sinners to whom Jesus preached
      • Openly despised sacred things
      • Yet they repented and obeyed
  • The courteous son was disobedient and deceiving
    • Not unlike the Scribes and the Pharisees
      • Made high pretensions
      • Professed much, and talked much
      • But it was all talk, and no action
        • In the end, they did not
    • Not unlike many of those who Jesus preached to
      • Matthew 7:21-23
      • Luke 6:46
    • Not unlike many in our churches today
      • Attend, listen, and seem interested, but show no interest in Christian growth
      • Outside appearances, but are not spiritual or useful
        • Leaves, but no fruit

Application of the parable

  • The ability of the grace of God to save even the worst of sinners
  • The importance of practical, working Christianity

Suggested reading:

Overview of Bible Study