As teen Laura Jeane and her younger sibling, Betty, cleared dinner dishes at their home after a meal for more than ten, Mama swiped a strand of hair from her forehead wet with sweat and sweetly asked the girls, “Could you two please wash the dishes tonight?”
A large dinner with extra guests like this was common for the family of five who ran a hotel. But back in the days before automatic dishwashers, the chore meant much soap, time, commitment, and hot water.
Sixteen-year-old Betty smiled and replied, “Of course, Mama! You’ve worked hard on this meal. I’ll be glad to help. But I need to make a phone call first.” An hour later, Betty was still giggling on the phone with her significant other.
Dishes seemed unimportant compared to, “And what do you want me to wear for the anniversary of our first date?” she queried. “Oooo. I can hardly wait! You’re bringing a corsage, too?! Gee whiz! That’s swell!”
In spite of her great smile and promise, Betty never made it to the suds in the kitchen.
Laura Jeane did. She scrubbed the plates so hard, she nearly demolished the delicate design. Then slamming the clean plates on the counter, she groused aloud, “Just because I’m the oldest, I get stuck with chores to do by myself. It’s not fair! When will Betty get in here and help me?”
Betty was a total no-show. Though Laura Jeane finished cleaning the dishes and the kitchen as well, the teen verbalized a non-stop string of complaints about child labor, oppression, dictatorship, and unpaid overtime.
Her mother heard every word even as she reminded her daughter, “Remember, Dear, a smile goes a long way. Words and actions go together like peanut butter and jelly.” She couldn’t decide whose words and actions made her more angry.
Which of her teens’ actions was closer to what Mama wanted–promising but not doing or doing and complaining the entire time?
What is God’s take on this?
Jesus himself has the answer in this story in the book of Matthew, “There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
‘I will not,’ he answered, but later changed his mind and went.
Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
Which of the two did what his father wanted?” [Matthew 21:31]
Jesus explained that saying one will obey [God’s will] and not doing it is a mismatch between words and action. It was common in Jesus’ time and can be today as well.
Does keeping one’s promise count even count today?
King David advises, “Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them.” Psalm 76:ll.
Jesus shined with integrity and boldness. He always kept his word and promises, even in giving his life as a sacrifice.
The responsibility of saying we will do God’s will and just going through the motions doesn’t fool the Creator. He can always see the truth in our hearts. Words and action go together like peanut butter and jelly, like hamburgers and fries, like socks and shoes—even like a dishrag and soap.
When Laura Jeane washed the next mountain of dishes at the hotel another day, she had the help of her sweetie, Gus, who reminded her, “You meet the nicest people doing dishes, and you’re one of them.” And theirs turned into an even better match than peanut butter and jelly.
[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, buttontogod.dev. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]