"Lip or Life Service?" Matthew 21: 28-32

                                 “Lip or Life Service?”                                        

                                                                      Matthew 21:28-32

This Week’s Core Practice: Single-mindedness I focus on God and His priorities for my life.

Matthew 6: 24, 31-33“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Scripture: Scripture: Matthew 21:28-31

28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.”Jesus said to them,  “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

The Message of this Passage:

From the Ligonier”s Ministry: “Jesus in today’s passage uses His discussion of John the Baptist’s authority with the religious leaders in Jerusalem as a springboard to explain why judgment is coming upon those covenant-breaking Israelites who believe themselves falsely to be God’s true people. The parable of the two sons is the first of three consecutive parables in which our Lord condemns faithless Israelites.

The point of today’s parable is straightforward, namely, that it is better to obey without promising than it is to promise and not obey. As Scripture tells us elsewhere, words mean nothing if there are no deeds to back them up. It is easy to profess the truth, but our Father in heaven also demands that we do the truth as well. Those who initially refuse to submit to God but then turn to Him are His children, not those who honor Him with their lips and yet have hearts that never serve Him.

Of course, the priests and elders believe they are represented by the obedient son. Jesus, however, has a different estimation. The tax collectors and prostitutes, those whom the leaders see as farthest from the kingdom, are those who in hearing the preaching of John and Jesus have recognized their poverty of Spirit and repented. John Calvin comments that although they are great sinners, “they are greatly preferable to the scribes and Pharisees in this respect, that they do not continue to the end in their vices, but, on the contrary, submit gently and obediently to the yoke which they had fiercely rejected.” It is the son who does not follow through on his pledge that represents the Jerusalem authorities; they have not seen their desperate need of forgiveness and consequently, have not turned from their sin (v. 32; see 3:7–10).

Being able to discern the faithful son is actually an act of self-indictment on the part of the leaders. If they can rightly choose as faithful the son who left his disobedience, surely they must also be able to discern in themselves their own lack of righteousness and need of the Savior. Yet they never acknowledge their guilt. Let us never be so confident in our own goodness that we fail to recognize our need of repentance and forgiveness.

For Personal Reflection and Discussion:

  • What is the truth contained in the main point of this parable?

  • What motivated the parable

  • What is Jesus’ personal application of the parable? (v. 31)

  • What does this parable teach us about service?

  • In what ways are these two sons similar? How do those similarities apply to Jesus’ listeners and those of us that read this parable today?

  • In what ways are the two sons different? Who do they represent?

  • What do you think is the whole point of this parable?

  • What point is Jesus making in verses 31–32? Why does He sound so harsh here?

  • What does it mean that Jesus says the harlots and tax gatherers will get into the kingdom of God before the chief priests and elders of Israel?

  • This parable is different from some of the others, in that there is no burning of one side, like the wheat and tares, and there is no casting of one side into the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Is there any significance to this fact? If so, what is it?

  • Where would you place yourself on the spectrum of the older to younger brother? How does this parable specifically apply to us today…to you today?

  • What Core Competencies do you see positively or negatively in the passage?



Trinity: 2 Corinthians 13:14

We believe the God of the Bible is the only true God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Salvation by Grace: Ephesians 2: 8-9

We believe a person comes into a right relationship with God by His grace,through faith in Jesus Christ.

Authority of the Bible: 2 Timothy 3: 16-17

We believe the Bible is the Word of God and has the right to command our belief and action.

Personal God: Psalm 121: 1-2

We believe God is involved in and cares about our daily life.

Identity in Christ: John 1: 12

We believe we have significance because of our position as children of God.

Church: Ephesians 4: 15-16

We believe the church is God’s primary way to accomplish His purposes on earth today.

Humanity: John 3: 16

We believe all people are loved by God and need Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Compassion: Psalm 82: 3-4

We believe God calls all Christians to show compassion to those in need.

Eternity: John 14: 1-4

We believe there is a heaven and a hell and that Jesus Christ is returning to judge the earth and to

establish His eternal kingdom.

Stewardship: I Timothy 6: 17-19

We believe that everything we are or own belongs to God.


Worship:    Psalm 95: 1-7

We worship God for who He is and what He has done and will continue to do.

Prayer: Psalm 66: 16-20  

We pray to God to know Him, to intercede for others, to let our request be known to Him and to

find direction for our daily lives.

Bible Study: Hebrews 4: 12  

We read the Bible to know God, the truth and to find direction.

Single Mindedness: Matthew: 6: 33

We focus on the Lordship of Christ and His Priorities for our lives.

Spiritual Gifts: Romans 12: 4-5

We know and use our spiritual gifts to fulfill God’s purpose in our life and add to the benefit of the

Biblical or Transformational Community.

Biblical Community: Acts 2: 44-47

We fellowship with other Christians to accomplish God’s purpose in our lives,other’s lives, and

in the world.

Giving Away My Time: Colossians 3: 17

We give away our time to fulfill God’s purposes and for the building of His Kingdom.

Giving Away My Money: 2 Corinthians 8: 7

We give away our money to fulfill God’s purposes and for the building of His Kingdom.

Giving Away My Faith: Ephesians 6: 19-20

We give away our faith to fulfill God’s purposes and for the building of His Kingdom.

Giving Away My Life: Romans 12: 1

We give away our life to fulfill God’s purposes and for the building of His Kingdom.


Joy: Psalm 95: 1-7

I have inner contentment and purpose in spite of my circumstances.            

Peace: Philippians 4: 6-7

I am free from anxiety because things are right between God, others, and myself.

Faithfulness: Proverbs 3: 3-4   

I am faithful to fulfill God’s will for my life.  

Self-Control:  I Thessalonians 5:6

I have the power, through the Holy Spirit, to choose to control myself.   

Humility: Philippians 2: 3-4

I choose to show consideration for others above myself.

Love: I John 4: 10-12

I am committed to love others unconditionally.

Patience: Proverbs 14:29

I am patient with others.

Kindness/Goodness: I Thessalonians 5: 15

I choose to do the right things in my relationship with others.

Gentleness: Philippians 4:5

I choose to be thoughtful, considerate and calm in dealing with others.

Hope: Hebrews 6: 17-20

It is because of the hope I have in Christ I can cope with the hardships of life

and with death.