Thursday, June 23, 2011

Working in the Vineyard

Matthew 20:1-16 (ESV)
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. [2] After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. [3] And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, [4] and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' [5] So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. [6] And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' [7] They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' [8] And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' [9] And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. [10] Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. [11] And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, [12] saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' [13] But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? [14] Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. [15] Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?'
[16] So the last will be first, and the first last."
This parable follows on the heels of the question that the Disciples asked at the end of chapter 19, concerning what they gain for having given up everything to follow Jesus. This is the common question asked by many who are persecuted for the faith. This is something I often see in people. It is not a very Christian attitude, it is the last vestiges of the old Adam rearing his ugly head. The only ones who ask such questions are those who think they have actually contributed to their salvation, or that they are contributing to it by working in the vineyard.
Rather than seeing the work as a joy, and a comfort, a privilege, they look at those in the market place who do not have the security of salvation, who do not yet know Christ with a sort of jealousy. It is a perverse jealousy if you ask me. Yes as Christians there may be things we find tempting but we forego in the name of Christ. More likely, we too often fail at this. It is our privilege to be in the kingdom and to work for it. It isn’t hard work. In reality it is just being forgiven of our failures, and sins, and loving others with the same love with which he loves us, that is forgiving them and letting them know of Christ’s forgiveness. But Loving others means that we pay attention to the ten commandments, because there is no love where these are broken. And that is the rub. Others don’t seem to care as much, and in the end they could be saved and receive the same salvation we do. And it doesn’t sound fair to our sinful old adams, who think in terms of this world, and want more than the other one.
At the end of the day, though we all get the same denarius, a rather generous offer of salvation. Because it isn’t ours to earn, but God’s to give, and he gives it the same to all. And when we realize his generosity, that cost him his life on the cross, so that he could atone for us with his blood, then we are only happy to tell our fellow man about Christ and share that forgiveness.

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