Right after the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees on the authority in which He and John the Baptists were operating in, Jesus continued the conversation with the Parable of the Two Sons.
“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 afterwards 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 the father?” [The Pharisees] 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.” (Matthew 21:28-32)
In context, Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees concerning salvation in which He and John the Baptist had preached. We know that the will of the Father is that none should perish but that all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) and that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36) But this also speaks a word to us as believers and followers of Christ.
In James, it’s made very clear that faith without works is dead: What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sisters is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” – and he was called a friend of God. (James 2:14-17; 21-23)
Now, I don’t want this to be misconstrued in anyway, so I want to make it abundantly clear that we do not work our way into heaven. Our salvation has been achieved by Christ alone, is offered by grace alone, and is received by faith alone. HOWEVER, it’s important to understand that our faith must be, in essence alive. A little further down in James 2 it says, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:26) That’s NOT at all saying that faith + works = salvation. It’s saying that in order for faith to be counted to us as righteousness, just as it was with Abraham, that faith must be alive and active, which is evidenced by our works. Our works are the fruit, not the root of our salvation. So just as a tree that doesn’t produce fruit is considered dead and gets cut down, without the fruit of works, it is the indicator of dead faith.
If you’re already a follower of Christ, this parable of Jesus serves as a reminder and health check for us, that we should be acting in obedience to our heavenly Father’s will, producing fruit by doing the good works He’s prepared and called us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).
Consider these questions a moment:
- What has God called you to work in?
- Do you have an eagerness to walk in those works?
- Are you walking in those works or have you only provided lip service to God?
We should have a willing and good heart towards the things God has called us to, but over and over again, we see that the merit is in actually doing those works. Remember when Jesus told Peter after Peter had just spent a whole night of fishing but caught nothing, to cast his net to the other side. Peter wasn’t told get a net full of fish, he was told to cast his net. We aren’t responsible for the outcome of the works, but simply doing the ones God calls us to do.
We must be careful, especially where Christians are free to worship, like here in America, because we can rather easily appear to others as great Christians on the outside, being always willing to say yes in serving in this and that work when the first announcement is made, but what does it matter if we’re not actually walking in them. Is that not worse because we’re not only not doing the works, but we aren’t keeping to our word in honesty and integrity if we’re flippantly agreeing to do what is asked and not following through with it.
There is great prudence in waiting on the Lord and seeking His will in all things, and when you know that HE has called you to do something, don’t wait to walk in it, just take the first step in faith and let Him direct and use you.
My dear friend, my prayer is that you listen to the calling of God in your life, that you have an eagerness to walk in it, and that you actually do the works. It doesn’t matter what recognition you get here on earth, but to do what pleases the heart of God and brings Him glory as you live your life unto Him as a living sacrifice, is worth it because He is worthy of it all.
Whatever God has called you to do, I encourage you to go and work in it today.