Sunday, January 31, 2010

Septuagesima: A Devotional Commentary

Matthew 20:1-16 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who was the master of a household and who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a salary of one day's wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Later, he went out when it was about the third hour and saw other men standing idle in the marketplace. He told them, ‘You too should go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ And so, they went their way. Again, he went out when it was about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour, he went out and still found others standing idle. He asked them, ‘Why do you stand here all day, doing nothing?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us!’ The master told them, ‘You too should go into the vineyard, and you will receive whatever is right.’ When evening came, the lord of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning from the last to the first.’ When those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came, they each received a day's wage. Now, when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more, but they each likewise received a day's wage. When they received it, they grumbled against the master of the household, saying: ‘These last workers have spent one hour, and yet you have made them equal to us, who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat!’ But the master answered to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong! Did you not agree with me for a day's wage? Take what is yours, and go your way. What if I wish to give to this last one just as much as to you! Is it not lawful for me to do what I want with what I own? Or is your eye evil, because I am good?’ And so, the last will be first, and the first last! Indeed, many are called, but few are chosen.”

God is represented here by a man who owns a vineyard. At about 6am He goes to the place where the laborers gathered and agreed to pay them a standard day's wage--let's say $115. About 9am He realizes that He's going to need some more workers. So he finds some other men who haven't been hired by anyone else yet and agree to pay them "what is right" if they will come and work in His vineyard. He does the same thing at noon and 3pm. He comes back again at 5pm with one hour left in the workday and does the same thing. The quality of the workers must have been declining as the day went on. The master of the vineyard hired the guys that nobody wanted to hire and brings them in to work for one hour. Each group assumed that they would get paid a certain amount based on how much of the day they worked. Those who came in at 6am probably expected to get paid about $115. Those who came in at 9am expected to get paid about $87. Those who came in at noon expected to get paid about $57. Those who came in at 3pm expected to get paid $29. And those who came in at 5pm expected to get paid about $10. They may have even expected less--these guys had a hard time getting anyone to give them a job. They were probably lazy and slept in because they were hung over from the night before.

When the work day is over, the owner of the vineyard tells the manager to pay the workers. He pays them in reverse order of when they started working. So he calls the guys in who had only worked for one hour and pays them $115. Not only were they guys who started at 6am surprised, they started calculating how much they thought each group of people were going to get. If this guy is paying $115 an hour, they should get $1380. That's what any rational employer would do.

But instead he gives everyone $115 and the guys who started work first are ticked off. It's the amount that they agreed to but they had spent all day working in the hot sun and never dreamed that the owner would pay people who only worked an hour the same amount as them. The master tells them to take what is theirs and get off his property.

If you want what you deserve you will get it. If you want a god who is bookkeeper, that is the God who will meet you on the judgement day. If you want what is yours, if you want what you've got coming to you, you will receive it by suffering in hell in eternal separation from the gracious God who gives of His grace in a crazy way.

How often do we act like God is unfair in His dealings with people? It's easy to think that the kindly old lady down the street from you is going to heaven. But what about the murderers and prostitutes? Jesus came to die for real sinners. Jesus invites everyone to the party. The only way you get kicked out of the party is by trying to claim that you earned your way in and trying to get Jesus to kick out the riffraff.

Jesus gives us above and beyond anything we ever expect. He does not bestow His blessings based on our yearly review. It's all grace. It's all mercy. It's all love.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Chuck, I liked this very much! Love Mom