In the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, he started to cut to the chase in some of his teaching. He wasn’t going to leave important things unsaid. So he addressed those who lived their life intending to do God’s will.
Matthew 21:28-32 “ What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘ Son, go and work in the vineyard today. ’ And he answered, ‘I will not, ’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘ I go, sir, ’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “ Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
Living by good intentions is a life of empty hope. We may make ourselves feel better by saying we want to do something, or planned on doing something. But if we never get around to it, our intentions are worth nothing.
1. Good intentions are merely empty promises. The oldest son reassured the Father of his love and devotion by promising something he never did. These empty promises revealed insincerity. They show a heart of mixed loyalty. It seemed like the oldest son was really loyal. In reality, his words were just a way to get Dad off his back.
2. Good intentions are ineffective. The oldest son didn’t help the vineyard work at all. The weeds grew, the dead branches were never pruned. Empty words don’t change reality, acting on the will of God does.
The opposite of living with good intentions is living in repentance and by faith.
1. Live in repentance. The youngest son, after rejecting his Dad’s command, changed his tune. We don’t see it with his words, but his actions. He turned. Our repentance keeps us turning everyday from the temptations that encourage us to ignore the desires of God. Take time daily to admit our tendencies, our desires and our actions that keep us from doing His will.
2. Live by faith. After his change of heart, the youngest son acted in faith. He showed loyalty and respect to his Dad by responding to his words. He trusted that his Dad knew best what needed to be done. The youngest son also found confidence in living in a newfound “oneness” with His Dad. We can have the same oneness and receive the same affirmation if we will listen to the Word of God and do what He tells us to do. We must re-order our lives around His desires. That is faith.
There is both a warning and an encouragement in these verses. The encouragement is, the path we start on isn’t the path we have to stay on – this is repentance. The warning is, words aren’t enough – this is faith.
The only regret I’ve heard from people after they’ve surrendered their lives to Christ is, “Why did I wait so long?” This Holy Week, let’s get past our good intentions to placate God. Let’s respond to the Father’s will through repentance and faith. Trust Jesus His Son. There is no better way to honor His sacrifice and celebrate His victory over death.