The Standard June 11, 2020
“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?’ ‘The first,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.’”(Matthew 21:28-32)
This scene is recorded right after Matthew tells the story of Jesus entering the temple courts and having his teaching interrupted by the chief priests and the elders as they question his authority. These religious leaders say all of the right words; they have all of the right answers. In this parable Jesus demonstrates that saying and doing are two entirely different things. Our actions mean more than our words.
Speaking of words, our eldest son who lives in Washington D.C. gives us updates every now and then of trendy words or phrases which are new to us. A few years ago, he explained that “woke” meant being socially conscious or aware of injustices. It turns out the word was used in Harlem back in the 60s but in recent years has gained wider usage.
Educator and author Ahmariah Jackson writes in 2019 in The Atlanta Voice about this term and these very same challenges we all face to give more weight to our actions than to our words. “To be ‘woke,’ one only need to repost clever memes and like heartbreaking videos of brutality and inhumanity. To be ‘woke,’ one only need to learn the proper responses and buzz-words of the day.” He recommends action more than words. Of course, many of us who self-identify with any particular description live out our convictions but like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, we all are faced with the challenge of acting on what we say we believe.
We can comment verbally or in writing to denounce the heinous murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Roger Floyd, David Dorn and others. Words are important. Our voices help as we join in the worldwide chorus asking for justice. It is also important to do something to work for fairness, perhaps right here in our own neighborhood or community. If we say that all human life is sacred, we should live like it.
As Matthew West sings in his song so aptly titled, it is time for us to “Do Something.” “I woke up this morning. Saw a world full of trouble now, thought ‘How’d we ever get so far down?’ and ‘How’s it ever gonna turn around?’ So I turned my eyes to heaven. I thought, ‘God, why don’t you do something?’ Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of people living in poverty, children sold into slavery. The thought disgusted me so, I shook my fist at heaven. I said, ‘God, why don’t you do something?’ He said, ‘I did. I created you.’ If not us, then who? If not me and you? Right now, it’s time for us to do something.”