Some among us are old enough to remember the TV series Leave It to Beaver. Remember Eddie Haskell? Such a polite boy. Eddie is Wally Cleaver’s friend. Every time Eddie shows up at the Cleaver house, he has a way of inflicting instant nausea. “Well, hello Mrs. Cleaver! That certainly is beautiful necklace you’re wearing today. And how is Wally’s little brother, Theodore, doing today?” Of course, once up in Wally’s room, Eddie flips the switch: “So Wall’, what’s up with your old lady? How come she won’t let you go out tonight? That bratty little brother of yours snitch again?”
Sadly, there are more Eddies around than people imagine. In fact, there’s an Eddie Haskell in every heart. It’s called the sinful nature, the Old Adam.
In the 21st chapter of Matthew Jesus tells a little story to illustrate. A father says, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.” The young man answers: “I will not.” The refusal is crude, rude, attitudinal, without an ounce of respect. With a hot temper, a bad attitude and a stubborn “life is about me” uprising, the boy begins the day badly. We all begin life badly. The Bible says we are born saying, “No!” to our Father.
Sadly, nothing can change the fact that the young man is off to a bad start. A lot of good times were lost, opportunities spoiled, talents wasted. In one way or another, it’s the story of your life and mine. None of us can maintain with a straight face that we would not change a thing.
But the good news is that none of us need to live in slavery to our yesterdays. This disobedient son repents. “Later,” says Jesus, “he changed his mind and went.” That’s what repentance is – a change of heart and mind which God works in us by the law and the gospel. We see our sin for what it is. We see Christ for who and what He is, and trust what He has done to redeem us.
The second son in the little story is the phony. The father says, “Son, go work today in my vineyard.” The young man smiles and says, “Yes sir!”
He salutes his dad, picks up his shovel, and heads out to the vineyard. But once out of sight, he ditches the shovel and runs off for a night on the town. End of story. No real change of heart and life. Just keep up appearances so that Mom and Dad, your spouse, your teachers, your pastor will never guess what you’re really like. God doesn’t have to guess. He knows.
Jesus asks: “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” Any clod can tell. “The first one,” they admit. So, says Jesus, real repentance is shown not by the proud publican who never repents, nor by the haughty harlot who continues in her sin, but by the penitent publican who pleads, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” and by the humble harlot who lays her scarlet sins at the foot of the cross and is washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. These shall enter the kingdom ahead of the smug, smirking Eddie Haskells who are just playing the game. For all who really repent, who trust Christ and change course, who get real, today and tomorrow are brand new.