“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”
Have you ever lied on a survey? Well, of course, you haven’t lied, but have you ever varnished the truth a bit to impress the person conducting the survey? Professional pollsters have various terms for this, including the “halo effect” where people answer questions to make themselves look better than they really are, and “social desirability bias” where people give dishonest answers to avoid sounding weird or politically incorrect. Maybe we wouldn’t do that, but we might understand why other people might claim to be what they are not or say they will do something they never actually do. Unfulfilled good intentions and broken promises don’t amount to much more than lies and deception.
For Jesus, obedience is a matter of action and follow-through. Just saying you are going to do something doesn’t count. God is not impressed or fooled by empty promises. Actions, as the saying goes and as Jesus’ parable confirms, speak louder than words. The second son told his father what he wanted to hear, maybe to save face or to avoid an argument. He said he would go work in the vineyard, but then he didn’t do it. The second son not only disobeyed his father, but he also lied to his face. The first son initially refused to obey, but then he changed his mind and obeyed. That is, he repented.
Maybe you have been telling God for a long time that you will make a change in your life or break a bad habit or develop a new spiritual discipline. You might have good intentions and really want to follow through, but until you actually do it, until you finally put into practice what you have said you would do, your words don’t count for anything. It’s time to repent, to change your mind, by turning your words into actions and your good intentions into obedience. That’s what Jesus is waiting for.
Thank You, Jesus, for being patient with me. I’m sorry that I don’t always do what I say I will. Help me to learn true obedience by doing the things You ask me to do in Your word. I love You and want to bring honor to Your name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian