“Not everyone who says to me, “Lord Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21
Clearly, this text is not meant to be a tool for a verbal slinging match between those who think others are hypocrites and those who think not. The text has one point to make and one point alone. It is not about what you say but what you do; or in simpler language, do you put your money where your mouth is? If you want to know what you truly believe, you only need to examine your behaviour. If you truly believe that Jesus is Lord then does it show in your actions?
So let us look at this text in its context and not misrepresent what God wants to say to us in Advent. The text forms part of the first of Matthew’s great sermons. The Sermon on the Mount begins in chapter five with Jesus addressing the twelve and ends in chapter seven with Jesus address the crowds of disciples (7:28). The words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, challenging as they were, did not drive away the crowds but drew more in. That’s the power of speaking the truth with love.
In the text of today, Jesus is addressing the crowds and by extension all of us. He reminds us that ‘not EVERYONE who says to him, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.’ Clearly Jesus is not implying you can’t pray if you don’t do his fathers will. Jesus is not imposing a ban on prayer but a course correction for worshippers. This text must not be read as a restriction but rather than permission to do more!
Look carefully, Jesus is directing this bit of information to those who turn TO HIM in prayer; he says, “not EVERYONE who says to ME.” These two words EVERYONE AND ME needs a bit of clarification. Jesus is not disparaging prayer. Prayer is not a duty it’s a privilege. Prayer is not an option, it’s our lifeline. Prayer is not our spare tire, it’s our steering wheel. You must and should go to the Lord and cry out to him several times shouting LORD, LORD! But here is the point; What Jesus is doing is encouraging a life of prayer that ought to be on par with his Father’s will. He is encouraging us to match what we say with what we do. He is calling us to do both not either or.
There are many who have adopted a new age mantra, ‘work is worship’. Let’s get this right. First this is an excuse for not praying. Second, work is work and worship is worship and then work and worship must marry! This sounds very similar to what we read in the Epistle of St. James. In other words, faith without works is dead. St James is not calling only for a life of works or only a life of prayer but both, faith and God’s work.
You often see charismatic preachers who can rouse a whole congregation to wave their arms, pray with tongues and chant in ecstasy. That is a blessing, that is a gift of God that lifts us out of ourselves. But it is empty and false if our lives do not reflect the Gospel, if we do not hear Jesus’ words and act on them.
The season of advent calls us to pray but not just empty words. Clearly advent is a time when prayer and our works must go hand in hand. It is essential for us to cry to the Lord and say his name several times a day but it is essential to do the will of his father.
Here is the million-dollar question…what is the Father’s will? That is a discovery to be made on your knees.