Political correctness is a powerful force in our world today. As we engage in conversations, we are often tempted to say what we think will be most acceptable to others in hopes we do not offend anyone. We certainly should be grateful for the peace and civility we enjoy when our speech is measured and unnecessarily offensive. However, if we are not careful, this tendency to craft our words to please others may lead us to hide our convictions due to our fear of people. When this happens, you and I will find it nearly impossible to faithfully bear witness to the aspects of our Christian faith many find offensive.
The chief priests and elders Matthew describes here in Matthew 21:23-27 were certainly controlled by their fear of people. Rather than say what they thought to be true concerning John the Baptist, the chief priests and elders were silenced before the crowd. They would not act in a way that was consistent with their convictions. Or, to put it more accurately, they were so controlled by the opinions of others, they no longer had any convictions.
In our own day, we may find it increasingly difficult to speak in a way that is consistent with the truth of Scripture and acceptable to others. We must certainly measure our words and do everything we can to be kind and winsome when we talk about our Christian faith. But, we must also resist the temptation to be silent if we are motivated primarily by the fear of what other people will think. If we do not, we may eventually get to a place where we no longer have any meaningful convictions to share.
Matthew 21:23-46 (ESV):
23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.