Dress for Success in the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 22:1-14

    I explained many of Jesus’s parables about the kingdom of heaven in my recent book, but this parable didn’t make it into any chapter. It could have fit into the chapter about “who won’t get into heaven” (Chp. 13). This story would add a seventh grouping to the list. Those  who don’t wear the right clothing at the wedding banquet won’t stay in the kingdom of heaven.

     One of actor/director Woody Allen’s most famous quotes is this, “Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.” I doubt if Jesus would agree that “just showing up” for the wedding banquet makes you a successful disciple.

     Just “showing up” at your wedding might get you married, but it doesn’t build a dynamic, love-worth-fighting-for, mortgage-paying, in-law juggling, bank-account-balancing, children-challenged, lifetime relationship with your partner. Just showing up doesn’t cut it.

     Just showing up at the birth of your child might legally make you a “parent,” but it does not make you a diaper changing, dinosaur-name-learning, cheering-at-rain-soaked-soccer-games, doing-Algebra-homework, waiting-up-all-night enforcing curfews, saving for college Mom or Dad. Just showing up doesn’t cut it.

     Just showing up at church every Sunday morning might make you a member in good standing of a congregation, but it doesn’t make you a foodline-serving, church-property-mowing, Sunday school teaching, sound-system-managing, quilt-making, tear-wiping disciple in the kingdom of heaven. Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.

     To be invited to participate in the kingdom of heaven requires wearing the right clothing. Living your faith is about doing something, not just showing up.

     Let me remind you that the kingdom of heaven is the creative movement toward oneness in your life today. This interpretation of the kingdom makes the parables easy to understand. The unity or harmony you develop within yourself and your community results in bringing greater peace, joy, hope, and love into the world.

     In my last two blogs, Jesus said you will inherit the kingdom when you bear the fruit of the kingdom – feed the hungry, visit the sick, comfort the grieving, tell others how God has blessed you.

     So the answer to success as a disciple, living in the kingdom of heaven, is to dress for success.

     St. Paul told the church in Colossia how to do that, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). When you do this, you will be wearing a wedding garment and you will feast in the kingdom of heaven today.

     According to Jesus’ parable, the man at the banquet needed to be wearing the right clothes – a wedding garment – in order to enjoy the celebration. In those days, all the guests at a wedding were given a garment to wear. It visually identified you as a participant in the celebration.

     Lots of preachers and scholars have said that the wedding garment is faith, and that’s a good analogy. My only concern with it is that you can’t “see” faith that is in someone’s heart. You can only see evidence of faith.

     Clothing in the Bible is often a metaphor for one’s outer actions. It makes more sense to think the wedding garment is what can be seen on the outside of a person that proves faith exists. The evidence of faith is good works. The book of James says, “Faith without works is dead.” Ala, no works means no wedding garment.

     St. Paul also said we should wear the robe of righteousness. That’s not some mystical aura of perfection. It’s doing the right things. It’s our actions of love that others can see that are a robe of righteousness.

     I also explained in my book that the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” metaphor means sorrow and anger in this life. When you live in division, disharmony, apathy, etc., it’s a miserable life.

     The man who was invited into the wedding banquet accepted the invitation. He showed up. But just showing up doesn’t mean you will feast for long in the kingdom of heaven. How you dress as a follower of Jesus makes a statement. What you do or don’t do to live out your faith and bring harmony to others is what brings the joy, the peace, the love, the patience, and all those wonderful things that surround you when you live in the kingdom of heaven.

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