In Matthew 21:28-32, Jesus tells a parable of two sons. The father asked the first one to go work in the vineyard and the son replied that he wouldn’t, but later changed his mind and went. The father went to the other son and asked the same question. This son answered that he would, but then never showed up to work. Jesus asked, “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” and the crowd responded correctly that it was the first son.
There are people in my past who were like the second son. They’d make promises and never keep them. Sometimes it would be a small inconvenience, but other times the promise broken was far more devastating. I’d often wondered if it was a lie to begin with or if like the first son, the person later, “changed his mind.”
Maybe the motivation of the sons in the parable isn’t really important. The fact remains that both sons said one thing and did another. But when questioned, even the crowd recognized that actions speak louder than words. At the end of the day, the father asked his two sons to go work in the vineyard, and regardless of the words, only one son went.
Words are important. They can build a person up, or they can wound and scorch, but it is our actions that make the biggest impact on others. Although preaching and teaching the gospel is good, it is how we live our lives that influence others most. The “false prophets” that St. Paul warns us about are those that speak a good game, but don’t follow through with their actions.
I met a man who had every right to boast about a public accomplishment. I found out about it from someone else. I asked my friend why he hadn’t told me about his success, and he replied, “It wasn’t necessary. I felt peace that the work had been done. There was no need to boast about it.”
My friend taught me humility, and that actions speak far louder than words.
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