A father with two sons, says Jesus, comes to his first son and tells him to go work the vineyard. The son defiantly responds, “I will not!” I can imagine the anger and disappointment of the father. Later however, the man’s son changes his mind, goes to the vineyard and works it. In the meantime the father, who doesn’t know his first son is going to obey, goes to his other son and says the same thing, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.” This son responds positively, saying: “I will, sir.” I can imagine the joy and pride of the father when he hears these words.
Like the first son, the other son does not follow his own words. Unlike the first son, however, he is disobedient. The father only finds out later which son is true, not to his own word, but to the word of his father.
We who are parents or managers or couples or friends – hey! that’s all of us – need to pay attention. Just because our spouse, child, employee, or friend appears defiant in what they say does not necessarily make it true. Or just because our spouse, child, employee, or friend appears compliant in what they say also does not necessarily make it true.
James indicates words are cheap. Actions are expensive.