“What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went. The father went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will? They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, tax collectors and prostitutes will go ahead of you into the kingdom of God! For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe. Although you saw this, you did not later change your minds and believe him.’” —Matthew 21:28–32
In this story, Jesus illustrates the difference in human characters. Some people prove to be better than they promise, others promise better than they prove to be. Think about it … which one are you?
We see the same command delivered to both sons: Son, go and work in the vineyard today. God sets His children to work as heirs, not as slaves. Work was not meant to be a curse, but a blessing! It is a gift from our heavenly Father
I am reminded of Adam’s responsibilities prior to the fall:
“The LORD God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it.” —Genesis 2:15
God had no intention for His children to remain shiftless and idle. And He intended for them to enjoy their labor! Work became drudgery only after sin entered the world.
The gospel call to work in God’s vineyard requires modern-day believers to be obedient as well. We are to bring the love and truth of Christ to all those we come in contact with. Our time has not been given to us in order that we aimlessly waste it away. Jesus has commanded us to go and make disciples and that directive carries with it His authority, affection, and ability. There is work to be done in God’s kingdom!
“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest-ready fields.’” —Matthew 9:37–38
In the parable, the two son’s responses are very different. The first son responds with a flat denial to his father’s wishes. An excuse is bad enough, but a downright “no” is even worse. Often people refuse the call of the Father, initially choosing to follow worldly pursuits or pleasures. Here, the first son denies his father’s directive, yet reconsiders, repents, and produces fruit in keeping with repentance. To be sure, “better late than never.” God graciously and patiently waits on us despite our former poor choices. Indeed, He rises to show us compassion:
“For this reason the LORD is ready to show you mercy; he sits on his throne, ready to have compassion on you. Indeed, the LORD is a just God; all who wait for him in faith will be blessed.” —Isaiah 30:18
The second son responds with respect and professed obedience, yet is dishonest and unfaithful. To be sure, saying and doing are two separate matters.
Many say the right words, but their heart goes in a different direction. We must back up our words with what we do.
“When you make a vow to God, do not delay in paying it. For God takes no pleasure in fools: Pay what you vow! It is better for you not to vow than to vow and not pay it.” —Ecclesiastes 5:4–5
“Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace.” —G.K. Chesterton
“For we are his creative work, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we can do them.” —Ephesians 2:10