The Gospel doesn’t really praise anyone today. It sets before us a picture of two very imperfect men: one who says he will do what his father asks and doesn’t and the other is defiant but later goes and does what he is asked. Neither man in the story is the ideal son. The ideal son would have accepted joyfully the father’s request and completed the task immediately.
Promises do not always take the place of practice, to be truly respectful, courteous, and obedient, one must put their words into action.
Here we learn that the Christian way is in performance and not just in promise. We all know people who can snow us under with words and they never produce. The mark of a Christian is integrity of work and action which is graciously and courteously given.
In this context then Paul writes to the Philippians and speaks to us today: “Complete my joy by being the same mind as Christ, with the same love, becoming united in heart. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.”
These are not mere words; they are simple words to live by.