This parable is the first of the 3 parables told by Jesus when His authority was being questioned by the chief priests & elders. The other two parables are the Parable of the Tenants found in Matthew 21:33-45 and the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22:1-14.
Briefly, this parable is about a father asking his 2 sons to go and work in the vineyard. The 1st son said “No,” but later he changed his mind and went to work. However, the 2nd son said “Yes,” but he did not go at all. From this, it is clear that the 1st son obeyed his father, but the 2nd son did not. Continuing from that, we read that Jesus rebuked the chief priests and elders for not believing in John the Baptist who came to show the way of righteousness. But those who were despised and unwanted by the society such as the tax collectors and prostitutes believed in John’s message. They repented and did what God wanted them to do, thus Jesus said that they will be entering the Kingdom of God ahead of those who did not believe.
Today’s parable is telling us that it is better to obey without promising than it is to promise and not obey. Words mean nothing if there are no deeds or actions to back them up. It is easy for us to admit and agree the truth, but God also demands that we act out the truth as well. In other words, what we do (which is our action) is more important than what we say we will do (which is our speech). We cannot be “no action, but talk only.”
For example, Jesus tells to “love our neighbor”. This command challenges us to put our love in action, and this may mean going beyond our comfort zone to do what God has called us to do. But if we say we “love our neighbor,” but never do anything about it (ie no action at all), then basically we are like the 2nd son in the parable who says ‘yes’ but, in the end, did not go and do what his father called him to do. He did not do his father’s will.
Action does speak louder than phrases. In James 1:22, it teaches us that “we should be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” Thus, we should be obedient to God, not only in words, but also in our actions. Our words without actions are useless.
Jesus, we confess that sometimes we say, "Yes," but our actions say, "No." Help us to be faithful to do what You have called us to do. Help us to live a life that is pleasing to You, and that we will honor You not only with our words but also in our deeds. We pray that we will obey You whether it is convenient or not, and that our lives will reflect who You are. We pray that our lives will glorify You and continually attract and lead others to You. Help us to be wise, not foolish, and to be aware that we are ineffective Christians when we “talk the talk” but do not “walk the walk”. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.