The email from the student in my college writing class expressed urgency. It was the end of the semester, and he realized he needed a better grade to participate in sports. What could he do? He had missed some assignments, so I gave him two days to complete those papers and improve his grade. His response: “Thank you. I’ll do it.”

Two days—and the deadline—passed, and no papers appeared. He didn’t back up his words with action.

Jesus told about a young man who did something similar. The boy’s dad asked him to do some work in the vineyard. The son said, “I will, sir” (Matt. 21:30). But he was all talk and no action.

In commenting on this parable, Matthew Henry concluded: “Buds and blossoms are not fruit.” The buds and blossoms of our words, which breed anticipation of what we might do, are empty without the fruit of our follow-through. Jesus’ main application was to religious leaders who spoke of obedience yet refused to follow through with repentance. But the words apply to us as well. It is in following God “with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18)—not in making empty promises—that we honor our Lord and Savior.

Our actions in obeying God show Him more love, honor, and praise than any empty words we might say to try to appear good.

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