In some form or another, we have all either given or received “lip service”. Webster defines lip service as doing with words but not following through with action. Jesus speaks of this in the parable of the two sons.
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. – Matthew 21:28-32
Perhaps to translate this a little further, if you are in financial trouble, who are you more grateful for? The friend who says in front of everyone that they’ll bail you out but doesn’t give a penny. Or the one who quietly slips you $10 and apologizes because they cannot do more. Perhaps, to a degree, this is why the world struggles with the Christian faith. High profile “leaders” come on the air to ask for a private jet while the homeless go unfed. Scandals get ratings so news outlets are only too happy to highlight when the fall from grace inevitably comes.
What of the churches that offer their pews for the homeless to sleep in? Or the small group of believers who keep a family fed during tough times? The large faith organization that goes to war-torn regions not to convert people to Christ, but to show the love of Christ? Or the friend who gives you his last $10 and hates that they cannot do more? Where is their headline? Where is their viral story? Nowhere, and that is just the way they want it. Christ calls us to “do” but not for glory or recognition … but for the sole reason of serving one another in His name.
When Jesus shared this parable, the religious leaders whom he was asking the question of, would have been seen as the upper echelon of society. By contrast, the tax collectors and prostitutes would have been the lowest of the low. How is it then that they will go into the kingdom of God before the leaders? Because they truly understand what it is to have Jesus as Lord of their life. To put their faith and trust in Him. The Pharisees and Sadducees of the time would have had more faith in their tradition, heritage, and themselves.
To me, the closing of verse 32 is the most chilling. “32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.” I have long believed that even if an Atheist saw a healing or some other miracle with their own eyes that they would still not believe. But here we have Jesus saying the same is true about those who give lip service. Those who do a good talk about what they are going to do but never actually “do” any of the kingdom work.
Do I actually do the work of the Kingdom based on what God is calling me to do? Do I pay Him lip service in saying, “yes Lord I’ll go” but never step foot outside my door? Am I serving because I love Him, or am I somehow trying to earn what is already freely given?