One of the television shows that I liked to watch is called “Chopped” on the Food Network. On this show, they start with four chefs, and they give them a basket of really different ingredients, all of which they have to use, to make either an appetizer, main dish, or dessert, depending on the round. The dishes are then presented to a panel of three judges who are chefs and restaurateurs. These judges critique each dish and, of course, pass judgment. As each course goes by, one of the contestant chefs gets “chopped” or eliminated, while the others continue to compete. The winner gets ten thousand dollars.
On one particular episode, one of the chef contestants had a real problem with arrogance. He couldn’t see how anyone could possibly make a dish better than his, even though his always came out looking ragtag, and from what the judges said, tasting the same. He would not listen to any of the critiques, because, well how did these people know anything? He survived the first round, but was quickly eliminated in the second round, mostly because the judges got tired of his arrogance.
That came back to mind when I read today’s gospel reading. Jesus tells the chief priests and elders, “tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you.” That had to be horrible news. Because those chief priests and elders were living what they thought was a good life. They were the “decent people” of society. Nobody could be noticed by God before they were, surely. But Jesus says they certainly are. Why? Arrogance – again.
Like the arrogant chef, those chief priests and elders refused to listen to any kind of criticism. John the Baptist had preached repentance, and the tax collectors and prostitutes, the riff-raff of society, had listened, and were gaining entrance to the kingdom of God. Meanwhile, those so-called decent folks, the ones who should have known better, were in for an eternity of wailing and grinding their teeth.
The arrogant chef merely lost out on ten thousand dollars. The arrogant chief priests and elders had lost out on quite a bit more: eternal life. Today, we all pray for the grace to overcome our arrogance and accept correction for the sake of our salvation.