“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him. ~ Matthew 21:28-32
Ever since the eponymous movie came out, you hear people talk about their “bucket list.” A list of goals, dreams and life plans – some attainable, some not – that may exist in someone’s mind or on paper. Bucket lists are things we hope to achieve before we die, things that we think would make life better by accomplishing.
But like many things, our bucket lists are often reflective of who we are. Some people, fearing failure, don’t make them at all. Others have lists that center around material wealth and personal gain. Others still have lists that aren’t realistic at all, but simply pie-in-the-sky dreams they have no intention of working for. And some create lists that are full of goals and dreams that they are actively working toward every day.
Our bucket lists can be like the brothers are in this parable. The first son is initially rebellious – outwardly defiant of his father. But then he regrets his actions and goes to do what his father asked. The second son is all talk – smoothly replying that absolutely, he’ll do just what his father asks of him. And then he doesn’t.
We’ve all met people who are all talk – they have lists of things that they hope to one day accomplish. But they aren’t doing anything to actively achieve them. Their dreams will never become reality. And others are more like the first son – perhaps not admitting to their aspirations, but going out and doing something about them anyway.
Much like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, it can be easy for a Christian to fall into the trap of only having the correct words and answers. But as Jesus points out, saying the right thing at the right moment isn’t nearly as valuable as actually going out and doing the work you say you will. The act of living a duplicitous life – saying one thing and doing another – is perhaps the greatest struggle we all face. As believers, we are tasked with demonstrating our faith exists by making sure our works match up. If that is really true, then our bucket lists and life goals should be in line with the will of God. And we should be working hard to pursue them.