“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. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 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?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 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.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 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.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Mat 20:1-16)
Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? So the last will be first, and the first last.
Begrudging God’s generosity. I find this to be something that is done quite often, and usually without our noticing it. Most people would not be so crude as to knowingly look God’s gift horse in the mouth. But then we do from time to time resent our lot in life. And spend time judging others for either having it better or worse than us. From time to time we meet hardships, and become a bit angry at God who giveth and taketh away. And then when it comes to church, and our salvation, we are under the constant temptation to believe that we have somehow earned it, or made ourselves deserving of it. We forget the privilege it is to be in his kingdom.
Perhaps we have gone through life burdened by temptation to a particular sin. Resisting that temptation has taken every ounce of our being. Perhaps we haven’t been quite as happy in our marriages as we had hoped to be, but have remained faithful all the same. Perhaps, we have over and over again wanted to abandon responsibility to family, friends and work and just leave it all. Perhaps there are times when the gifts of God seem to be white elephants that tax our emotions. And we try so hard to do what we know God wants of us, but his will and our will do not always match up perfectly, sometimes we don’t seem to even be in the same ball park. Then perhaps we see someone who has done all the things we have wanted to do in our hearts. They become Christian. Perhaps we wonder why we should not have gambled and done like they have. But we have never walked in their shoes and we don’t know what misery they have caused for themselves.
Perhaps we think that because we have worked in the vineyard for so much longer we deserve more than the other servants in his kingdom who have come later. We forget to tell ourselves after all we have done that we are only unworthy servants and have done nothing more than was actually required of us, and in reality far less. None of us have managed to do those things God requires of us in his law. All of us have fallen short of his glory. We have nothing to point to and say, but Lord I did this! Or Lord I did that! This is one of the things that makes it so hard to conceive of earning our salvation in the first place. To earn favor with God we would first have to be somehow autonomous from him. But we aren’t. He is the one who created us to be his servants. We owe every last bit of our lives to him, whether we like it or not. We don’t ever do anything more than what he has asked, and all too often fail to even come close to doing what he has asked. And we think of ourselves as free, as if it was somehow far and above what he has asked that we, what? Went to church? Donated to a Charity? Were friendly towards our friends? Prayed our morning devotions?
But we didn’t earn our way into his kingdom, and neither do we earn our keep there by what we do. Rather while we were yet sinners, God died for us. God went to the Cross and poured out his blood for you. He saved us by grace through faith, a gift from God that he gave to us when the Holy Spirit called us by the gospel, and sanctified us with his gifts, even as he has done this very morning for Jacob and Devin as they were born again of water and the spirit, washed and sanctified by the word and water in holy baptism. Yes, this is how all of us entered into the work of the kingdom, service in our Lord’s vineyard where we are privileged to serve him in everlasting innocence , blessedness and righteous. And the gift he gave us there he gives to us generously and does not take away, despite our grumbling. Rather he continues to take care of us wherever we are and however we go. Begrudge his generosity? And he still pays you the denarius! He gave it to you before you even started. He’s that kind of boss, generous to a fault some might say. Believe me, he pays better than the other options you have, sin, death the devil and this world, don’t know what remuneration is. But God gives you a double portion of grace for all your sin. He purchased you with the death of his Son. He purchased Jacob and Devin with that blood, he purchased your neighbors, your cousins, your aunt and uncle, and that coworker you just can’t stand. He brought you into this kingdom to work in his vineyard, just so he could give you that denarius, and give he does.