“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
Have you read something in the Bible and knew it was talking about you and the context that you are surrounded by?
This is one of those passages.
What is it? It’s a warning.
It’s a warning for the middle class of America. In this parable where this passage is taken from, Jesus tells of a man (representing Jesus), who throws a large banquet (representing God’s future kindgom) and invites everyone (representing you, me, and everyone in between) to come in, but the people begin to make excuses.
Take note of their excuses! One cannot come because they just “bought a field”. Another cannot because they just bought “five oxen”. Lastly, one cannot come because they just got married.
Do you notice a theme about their excuses? Their excuses are all centered around their happiness (derived from marriage example) and about their pursuit of getting ahead (derived from purchasing income generating assets example).
The result of this parable? Hear it from Jesus himself: “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”
Wow. Before we make justification about whether those values are ends or means, let’s at least start with this–does it strike us yet with a great fear that the reason these people in the parable will not enter into God’s kingdom is because of happiness and the pursuit of getting ahead and that these are the key principles of being a middle-class in America?
Jesus is probing and testing our hearts as people with relative wealth–do we love our happiness, stuff, and advancements more than Jesus and his purposes?
This reminds me of a story heard in my own church. In life group they started with an icebreaker question of “What is your greatest dream?”, to which this life group of new parents (but “older Christians”) began answering consistently that their greatest dream was that they lived in a certain neighborhood, or lived in a certain house, or that their kids went to these schools.
At hearing that, my heart broke.
I had a holy frustration that these pathetic pursuits constituted the place of greatest desire in our hearts. It was the pain of seeing the empty promises of the middle class American life robbing our hearts of giving Jesus and his purposes the highest passions of our lives.
If out of the heart the mouth speaks, it was as if I saw and heard the shape of the weeds that Jesus warned about that would render our lives unfruitful as it would be choked by the concerns and cares of this life.
Then this thought dawned upon me: the middle class American might not make it to heaven!
Don’t take it from me, I am merely responding to the haunting and brutal warning from Jesus that the people who prioritized their happiness over hearing God’s voice and obeying were not welcome in the kingdom of God.
I am responding to the possibility that we might very well be the people who are knocking from the outside saying, “Jesus! Didn’t you preach in our churches? Didn’t we hear stories of you moving in people’s lives? Didn’t we cheer when missionary families went overseas? Didn’t we give money to the church in your name?”
The nature of being middle class is that we’re in the middle–a place where Jesus warned that he hated. Like lukewarm water, he spits out those fettered to the ambitions of their own heart yet live with the guise that they are his.
To be sure, our economic class doesn’t disqualify us from entering in God’s kingdom, but it sure puts us at certain disadvantages as the line between our affections for Jesus and his purposes and our own affections and purposes are woefully thin amidst a class culture that ruthlessly feeds selfish gain, getting ahead, and the love of things.
I am a middle class American. I accept and own that.
God help me to never prioritize happiness above Jesus. And the pursuits of gain over a life of hearing his voice and obeying joyfully, cheerfully, and completely. May I be found ruthlessly self-assessing the passions of my heart and that the love of you, your name, and your purposes would far, far, far outweigh any pursuit of self gain.