Tuesday, January 30, 2018

January 30: Matthew 20:1-16; God’s Grace



            Jesus tells the parable of a landowner who goes out and hires people to work in his vineyard. The first negotiate for a denarius for a full day’s work. Throughout the day he hires more. Some he tells he will pay what is right and others, he tells to go and work not even mentioning pay. When evening comes, he pays a denarius to those who came last and worked only an hour. The ones who worked all day then expect to get more but only get a denarius because that was their agreement. They are upset but the landowner tells them he can do what he wants with his money and be generous to whom he wants.
            We can make many errors from this parable by applying it in ways that it was not intended. We must remember that this is about the kingdom of heaven and not about how we are to treat employees or how we can do what we want with what we own. We can’t use this parable to argue for fair or unfair wages. We have laws that apply to those and we must work within the law. We may be generous with our property in some ways, but we have restrictions on how we use it both legally and morally. There are laws about what we can and can’t do such as zoning laws. We also can’t give to terrorist organizations. So, let’s forget about trying to make the parable say something where it doesn’t apply.
            This is a representation of what God does with those whom he calls and how he gives his grace. There are some obvious and some not-as-obvious conclusions we can draw from it.
·         Some people who are called come early in their life. They usually have a good idea of what it means to follow the Lord and what their reward will be – eternal life. However, some of these may expect more because they have served all their lives. They may feel that they should have greater rewards in heaven or on earth because of it. They may become bitter like the Pharisees when they see those who haven’t worked the way they did coming to the Lord without paying the price by following all the rules. There are churches like this that want conformity to their practices before they accept people as having received salvation.
·         Some people come to the Lord at other times in their life. They don’t necessarily understand the full impact of what they are doing, but they are willing and trustful. When the Lord says he will take care of them, they go. Since their expectations are that the Lord will do what is right, they have no problem getting whatever reward they receive.
·         Some people come to the Lord at the end of their lives. While they are not promised anything, they still go. Their knowledge of the kingdom and what lies before them is minimal. They are generally very thankful that the Lord called them before it was too late.
·         God looks at all three classes of people and bestows his grace on them all. His grace isn’t affected by their length of service or by their knowledge of his kingdom. This is God’s unmerited favor. We can’t complain about who he saves or when. Paul explained it clearly, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy” (Rom 9:14-16 NIV).

            Who is greater in the kingdom of heaven doesn’t depend on our evaluation or on our desires. James and John learned that when their mother asked Jesus to put them on his right and left in his kingdom. Even though they believed they could drink his cup and Jesus affirmed that they would, that still didn’t give them the right to those position because it is the Father’s choice (Matt 20:22-23). Our job is to keep our eyes on the Lord and not become concerned about how the Lord is rewarding our coworkers. We need to extend the same grace to other Christians in the same way Jesus gives it to use, freely and lavishly (Eph 6:1).

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