The parable of the two sons (Matt. 21:28-32) is about two brothers whose father tells them to go work in his vineyard. One tells his father that he will but doesn’t do it. The other tells his father that he won’t go but ends up working all day among the vines. Jesus then asks the question, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” The answer is clear: the one who actually worked, though initially refusing to do so. This parable continues earlier stories in Matthew about the people who actually are part of God’s kingdom. Jesus tells the religious leaders in his audience that “tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matt. 21:31). The folks who look the least religious will enter God’s kingdom ahead of religious leaders, because in the end they do God’s will.
In work, this reminds us that actions speak louder than words. Many organizations have mission statements declaring that their top aims are customer service, product quality, civic integrity, putting their people first, and the like. Yet many such organizations have poor service, quality, integrity, and employee relations. Individuals may do the same thing, extolling their plans, yet failing to implement them. Organizations and individuals falling into this trap may have good intentions, and they may not recognize they are failing to live up to their rhetoric. Workplaces need both effective systems for implementing their mission and goals, and impartial monitoring systems to give unvarnished feedback.
Jesus illustrates this in 21:32: The religious leaders had listened to John the Baptist but scorned him; tax collectors listened to him, believed, repented and were baptized. But the religious leaders refused to hear the prophet’s message or to repent, excluding themselves from God’s kingdom.