I enjoyed sports as a player in my earlier years and have always enjoyed as a spectator. I grew up in Mobile, Alabama and during my teenage years I lived near Baltimore Park, a city recreation center. I played on a baseball team there. Our team’s Coach Campbell also played in a softball league at the park on Tuesday nights and I would often go to watch him play.
If Coach Campbell booted a ground ball, made a bad throw, or struck out, I would remind him of it the next day at my team’s practice. This was not received kindly and I can still see his face grow red as he would say, “Don’t do as I do. Do as I say!
Many years later in a church board meeting there was discussion about whether we should continue to have worship services on Sunday night. After many comments the chairman called for a vote. When asked for those who believed we should continue Sunday evening services almost every hand in the room went up. Then the chairman asked another question: “If we continue Sunday evening services, who will attend?” This time there were far fewer hands raised.
Sometimes our actions don’t match our words.
One day Jesus told a parable of a farmer who had two sons (Matthew 21:28-32). The farmer went to the first son and said, “Go work in the vineyard today.” The son was somewhat rebellious and replied, “I will not.” The father was disappointed but did not say anything else.
The farmer then went to his second son and asked if he would help out in the vineyard today. The second son said, “Yes sir, I will go.” With the assurance that the second son would help out, the farmer went to work in another part of the vineyard.
Things didn’t turn out quite like the farmer expected. The first son who answered, “I will not,” changed his mind and spent the entire day working in the vineyard. The second son who said, “Yes sir, I will go,” also had a change of mind. The second son, the one who promised to help his father, did not.
Jesus asked the religious leaders, “Which of the two did the will of the father?” “The first,” they answered.
Best-selling author, Steven Covey, writes about the time he was a professor at the Marriott School of Management. One of the young executives asked him how he was doing in class. As they talked for a while Covey confronted him directly. “You didn’t come in to find out how you are doing in class,” he said. “You came in to see how I think you are doing. You know how you are doing in the class far better than I do, don’t you?”
The young executive said he knew how he was doing in class. He admitted that he was just trying to get by. He gave a host of reasons and excuses for cramming and taking short cuts. The young man came in to see if it was working. Reflecting on this incident Covey writes, “If people play roles and pretend long enough, giving in to their vanity and pride, they will eventually deceive themselves.”
Such was the case of the religious officials that Jesus was talking to. They had been using all the right words, going through all the ceremonies. They had God on their lips but not in their hearts. They had said “yes” to God but God was not real to them. Sometimes we go through the motions, not really meaning what we say. Empty words. Sometimes we are like them- our actions don’t match our words.
It is easy to sing the song, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. Over mountain or plain or sea. I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord. I’ll be what you want me to be.” It is another thing to really do what we say we will do.
God expects us not only to “talk the talk,” we are also expected to “walk the walk.” Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.
We are called not just to say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.” But to actually “go” where God sends us. Not just to say, “I will” but to actually “do” what we say we will do. Not just give lip service but to actually practice what we preach.