The Supreme Question
Jesus once told a story about a father with two sons. He told them both to go work in the vineyard. One initially refused but then had a change of heart and went. The other agreed to go work but never did. Jesus asked, “Which of the two did the will of his father” (Matthew 22:31). Why did Jesus ask this question?
First and foremost, Jesus asked this question because it is the supreme question. In Jesus’ story the father represents God. Doing His will is what life is all about. It is all that matters. Everything else is secondary. The Bible makes this point from beginning to end.
When Moses gave Israel the Law, he said he was setting before them life and death. He charged, “So choose life . . . by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 30:19b-20a).
When Bible historians told of the reigns of kings in Israel or Judah, they did not primarily concern themselves with their building projects or their military exploits, though these are part of the record. The first thing said about the king was whether he obeyed God or not. It was either, “So and so became king. He did right in the sight of the Lord” or more often “he did evil in the sight of the Lord.” That inspired epitaph said it all.
Jesus confirmed this emphasis. He preached it (Matthew 7:21-23). He also practiced it. He could summarized His life by affirming, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38).
The apostles made the same point. Peter testified, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:35-36). Hebrews 10:36 says, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”
I might be a great husband or father, a helpful neighbor, a skilled craftsman, a successful business man, an accomplished artist or athlete, a generous philanthropist or a thousand other good things in life, but if I am not doing God’s will I am a miserable failure. Doing His will on a few points does not suffice. I must be all about serving Him. Each of us must let this truth fully sink in!
Contextually, Jesus asked this question of people—religious people—who presumed they were doing the Father’s will, when in reality they often ignored it. Self-deception is all too easy. The Lord was calling for objective self-assessment. He was calling for repentance.