“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘ I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of 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 after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.) Matthew 21:28-31(32) NRSV
The first son had no intention of doing what his father asked and said so without so much as an “excuse me,” or “sorry, no.” Some time later, he changed his mind and went into the vineyard to do the work his father asked of him.
The second son was just the opposite – a positive reply with a deferential “sir” attached, the very image of respect and courtesy. Quickly, he turned away from making good on his pretty words and whatever work he might have accomplished evaporated into a fog of good intention.
I’ve snapped a rude no to a task then later thought better of it; I’ve said an enthusiastic yes to a request and never followed through. Honest to God, I have. But the staggering truth Jesus shows me in this parable: there’s no such thing as good intentions that don’t lead to action. Sometimes circumstances interfere and I can’t follow through as quickly or directly as I had hoped. In rare cases, I never get out to the vineyard because something beyond my control makes it impossible. But most of the time, if I don’t act, then I didn’t really intend to do the work in the first place. I just hate to admit this to myself or reveal it to others.