By Father Casey
Sometimes I can really tell that God is speaking to us through the Scriptures. This weekend is just such a moment.
The gospel we’ll hear on Sunday features a confrontation between Jesus and the chief priests. They feel threatened by him, so they challenge him to tell them by whose authority he is performing his great signs. He responds by questioning their ability to know the difference between right and wrong, godly and ungodly. And to drive the point home, he tells them a parable.
“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, 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 tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
It’s in this parable that I can feel God speaking to us right now. Jesus is teaching about how to know when something or someone is godly, and he says to begin by inspecting their integrity. That is, do they do what they say they’ll do? Do their actions match their words? Do they speak the truth and uphold what they say? Do their lives reflect integrity?
Integrity is something I spend a lot of time teaching my children. Among all the characteristics of a Christian, integrity is at the top of things I hope to model, and I hope they will learn. I want them to speak the truth, and uphold it by their actions. I want them to not only say the right thing, but do it. I want them to be honest and trustworthy, always. I want them to hold themselves to the same standards they hold others to, and only ask of others what they are willing to do themselves. And I want them to know that to be truly godly – to be a person who does the will of God – requires you to live with integrity.
It’s getting harder these days to teach integrity, when those in some of our highest positions of leadership seem unconcerned about it. Declarations about the “right thing to do” are quickly dismissed because of their current inconvenience. I can say one thing and do another, because my agenda is what is most important, not the manner with which I achieve it. If I have to lie, or go against my own word, in order to achieve the thing I want, then so be it.
Friends, followers of Jesus are people of integrity. As Jesus teaches, at the very least we are to be people who can be counted on doing the right thing, even if at first we said we wouldn’t. Better yet, we should be people who pledge to do the right thing from the start, and then follow through in pursuing it. Even if it is costly to us. No, especially if it is costly to us.
We must be trustworthy and true. For if we cannot be counted upon to do what we say, and apply to ourselves the same standards we expect of others, then how can we expect anyone to believe us about anything? We may get what we want in the short term, but when the time comes, we will be stuck watching the tax collectors and prostitutes going into the Kingdom of God ahead of us.