Change Your Mind
“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 changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but did not go. Which one did the will of his father?” They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, tax collectors and 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 tax collectors and prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds.” – Matthew 21:28-32 (NRSV)
Moral of the story: People who say yes don’t always follow through. People who say no sometimes do. Doers, not people who only talk a good game, are pleasing to God. Right?
Yes. And no.
Because doing isn’t the only point here. There’s a deeper one in what Jesus says about the first son: “He changed his mind.” And in his reproach of his religious audience: “You didn’t change yours.” Jesus wants us to be doers of God’s will. But he’s equally concerned about our capacity for reconsideration. Maybe more.
What he commends isn’t mere ‘doing.’ It’s convertibility, a willingness to think again, to discover we’re wrong, to reverse course. It seems that a chastened heart may be preferable even to constancy and virtuous doing. Because there’s a sneaky danger in constancy and virtuous doing. It can give the illusion of perfection. Self-righteousness and judgmentalism come with that territory.
But people who change their minds are always undergoing the peculiar suffering of being wrong, swallowing their pride, recalibrating their assumptions and choices. They’re under no illusion of perfection. Humbled and teachable, they’re more likely to be merciful. And for Jesus there’s no other bottom line.
Take my made-up mind and give me a changing mind. Make me convertible and merciful, so that I can truly do your will.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.