Initial Defiance, True Actions, and Lip Service - A Parable of Jesus

Actions do speak louder than words.  That phrase has become so trite, that we fail to fully let its truth sink in, especially if we are to consider our own words compared with our own behaviors. 

In the Lord's eyes, what you actually do is more important that what you say you are doing.  

That should be obvious, shouldn't it?

In the past, when talking with others, I have been amazed at the number of youths who have never learned, nor been taught, this very basic spiritual principle. There are also many adults who have never learned it.

Even more surprisingly is this:  many actually behave as if the opposite is true, as if what they say and how they appear is all that matters. 

Let's look at one of Jesus' parables, one that is not as well known as some of the others. I call this parable the story of the "Two Sons Who Changed Their Minds."

But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second son and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.”
Matthew 21:28-31a

This parable speaks to the fact that what we say is meaningless if it is not supported by what we do. Similarly, our outward projection of right-doing; is not a guarantee of our condition inside. 

Do you ever say you believe one thing, and then act in a way that contradicts what you say?

For example, do you say you trust fully in the Lord, yet your prayer life is only minutes a week, if that?

Oh no, the uncomfortable questions are coming -- prepare for them. Here are some more uncomfortable questions to consider:

Do we say we trust God and want to live by His will; but then refuse to confess and change our own ways in certain areas of our lives? Or perhaps we don't refuse to change; but we put it off, saying "I will make this change in my life in the future; it's too difficult to do it right now."

Do you behave one way at church or when around groups of Christians, another way at work, and then another way at home?

Would people outside your home say you are a "wonderful, Christian person;" while those who know you best, those in your own home, know you hold unrepentant attitudes and grievances in your heart?

In all of those situations -- which do you think is more important? Which is the truth about you -- 

your words?  
your appearance in public?
or your contradictory actions in the privacy of your home?

I have discovered that too many people surprisingly would respond to that question by saying - "the way I appear in public to others is what is most important."

Out of all the people in the Biblical towns Jesus visited, there was one particular group of people Jesus verbally lashed out upon. These were the hypocrites -- specifically, Jesus calls out to them: "You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."

All in all, at the end of the day, we want to be consistent in our actions, words, and thoughts. We want our actions, our words, and our thoughts to all be in line with the will of God. 

The first son, defiantly told his father he would not obey. Yet he later regretted his decision, changed his mind, and did what the father asked him to do.

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The second son told his father he would do what the father required; but then he didn't do it.

The first son is ultimately in the right; the second son is in the wrong. You would think that conclusion would be obvious -- but unfortunately, in this day and age, it is not.  Many people truly believe that "appearances" and "lip service" are everything. Their philosophy is like this: "Just act like you are going to do the right thing; and when you are caught in an act of dishonesty, just make up a good excuse." Such people act as if they believe their character will ultimately be judged by their peers only.  They think "as long as I can project an image of Godliness it doesn't matter if I am truly acting in God's will. No one will know the difference." Others think only their testimony -- only what they say -- is what matters; even if the evidence that others can see clearly contradicts what they say.

But the judgement seat of heaven is nothing like the courtrooms of America. There will be no jury of  peers to empathize with you. There will be no character witnesses on your behalf. The judge won't need any such evidence, because the judge already knows the truth about what you say, what you think, and how you make yourself appear versus what you actually do. 

These are the teachings of Jesus that make people very uncomfortable. I even feel uncomfortable writing this. It causes me to want to go into prayer right now, and genuinely pray as David did in Psalms 139: "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts: And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."


Is there anything in your life that God has prompted you to do -- or to stop doing --  that you have not taken action on yet?

What was your initial response in your heart? 

Did you respond with a “no?”

Or did you respond with a “Yes, Lord."?

Now, go past your initial response and consider how you followed through.

Where are you today in regards to that initial decision of obedience or disobedience to his prompting on your heart?

Did you initially say “no,” but then ultimately changed your heart and followed through? 

Or did the opposite occur? Did you initially say “yes, Lord!” but then failed or “forgot” to actually do it? 

What do you need to do now so that your intentions and your actions are consistent with regard to the Lord's instructions?

-portions of this post are excerpted from the personal Bible study titled Why Is There So Much Trouble in Life? 14 Days of Parables with Jesus