In the Parable of the Two Sons, the Savior praises sinners who repent, then warns those who claim righteousness but refuse the work and worth of souls.
Jesus Christ taught: "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go to work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
"And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, the first. Jesus sayeth unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
"For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him" (Matthew 21:28-32).
Jesus clearly uses this parable to illustrate man’s hypocrisy and God’s infinite capacity to forgive the penitent who come unto him, no matter their former status, condition or circumstance.
The parable contains other rich symbols, from John the Baptist as a preparer of the way to the missionary harvest and toiling in God’s vineyard.
Some people judge, reject or exclude persons or groups while themselves refusing to submit to God. The Parable of the Two Sons shows us that anyone can reform and become a disciple, and that unrighteous judgment is a slippery slope.
The apostle Paul had a similar truth in mind when he counseled: "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more members of the body, which seem to be more feeble are necessary" (1 Corinthians 12:21-22).
Who among us is "more feeble," spiritually or temporally? Every person is important to the Lord, to the church and to the kingdom of God. Every person deserves to be treated with love and kindness. The harder someone is to love, the greater the reward when they or we change in the process.
When Mormons profess Christ but reject service and obedience, they display the veneer of religion without the corresponding quiet labor of discipleship. They allow the precious fruit of God’s vineyard to ripen and fall rotten to the ground.
Each of us must first examine our own heart and eye-beam (Matthew 7:3) to not only say but to do the works of righteousness. The master of the vineyard needs those willing to harvest, whether in missionary efforts, rescue efforts or simply being-a-better-friend efforts. God needs "doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22).
Another lesson from the Parable of the Two Sons besides unrighteous judgment and the worth of souls is the warning against appeasers.
Some years ago I worked for a bank in the collection department. One of my co-workers got along great with our boss. He charmed her with his smile and pleasant attitude, but when it came to doing the actual work, he often promised the moon and delivered a falling star.
I was left to do the heavy lifting, yet our boss was blind to my co-worker’s lack of effort because she couldn’t see past the pseudo-charm of personality to his heart.
In God’s vineyard, sweet talk won’t till the soil, plant the seeds, nourish the roots nor enjoy the reward of harvest.
May we remember the rich lessons of the Parable of the Two Sons by not judging who may repent and by giving labor, not lip, to discipleship.
William Monahan graduated from BYU law school. An Air Force veteran and former Phoenix stake president, he teaches law and serves as a high councilor for Queen Creek Chandler Heights Stake. He begins service July 2012 as a mission president.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company