"A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first" Matthew 21:28-31.
Jesus had just cleansed the temple. Not one person dared stand up against His authoritative command. The chief priests and elders had witnessed the whole thing including the miraculous healings that followed, but they refused to acknowledge Him as Messiah. They were challenging the source of His authority when He spoke the parable sited above. By their own words the church leaders condemned themselves.
The first son represented those who were living in open sin but later responded to the call to repentance. Those were the Publicans and sinners despised by the priests and elders who they inadvertently admitted to be the obedient ones.
The son who said "I go, sir," but did not, represented those like the priests and Pharisees who were proud and self-sufficient thinking themselves right, but not entering into true obedience. "Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him" Matthew 21:31, 32. In other references to them He declared, "In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" Matthew 15:9. "Do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not" Matthew 23:3.
Our words are of no value unless accompanied with consistent actions. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" Matthew 7:21. The test of sincerity is not in what we say, but what we do.
Kathryn Irizarry is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.