wife and I were in the grocery store when we noticed a little boy
running to his mom with some candy. “No Bobby put that back.”
Then later he ran to his mom with some pop. “Bobby I said no, now
quit.” At the register Bobby placed a chocolate bar on the
checkout and the mom put the chocolate back. Bobby began to whine,
“It's not fair! I want my share of stuff! I never get what I
am sure we have all heard this before and I am sure heard it
recently. At some point we were Bobby and others we were his mom.
You do not even have to be a child. Perhaps waiting in line to buy a
movie ticket, or pay for some shopping. Or waiting for a car parking
space. And someone pushes in front of you. And you want to get even.
To stand up for your rights. To make things fair. After all, you
DESERVE it. It’s ONLY RIGHT! These rude people just push others
around because they think they are special. Who do they think they
are – there are no CUTS!
perhaps you’re working on a group project at school or work. And
there’s always that one person who’s A SLACKER. You know what I
mean. They roll their eyes at meetings, fiddle with their pins, tap
on their phones during work, and hide in the restroom half the day.
They never pull their weight, and always complain about how nobody
listens to their ideas. Yet, expects everyone else to do the work.
And yet, it always seems to be THAT PERSON who gets the best
compliments from the boss. They get the raise and promotion. We get
skipped over so some boot licking slacker gets the cream while we get
the milking chore. It’s not FAIR! He didn’t EARN it! I want my
like the older brother, Robert, on Everyone Loves Raymond.
Always disappointed that it’s Raymond who gets all the attention,
the promotions, the lucky breaks. Mom always dotes over Raymond and
poor Robert is pushed aside so mom can get to her favorite. And his
classic quote, whenever Raymond gets ANOTHER lucky break? “Of
COURSE he did. It’s always about Raymond!”
about me? It ISN’T fair! I want my share!
the way the world works. It’s the natural human reaction. We ALL
react when things don’t seem equal and fair. Especially when it
happens to US. Those who DESERVE it should get the reward. And those
who DON’T should either get less or nothing at all.
the way THE WORLD works. But it’s not the way God works. The
reality is that, in God’s kingdom, we DON’T get what we deserve.
We DON’T get what’s FAIR. Which is just as well. Because that
would be TERRIBLE. We deserve nothing from God. All we have is a
gift from God to begin with. The fact we have life is what is equal
and fair. The GOOD NEWS is we get something better and much more.
We get our sins paid for by Christ's sacrifice – which we did
nothing to earn. We get eternal life in God's kingdom when we die.
We did nothing to build this kingdom and did nothing to earn it. It
is a gift. On top of that we are heirs of God's kingdom – not just
adopted children. Heirs get security. Adopted children get support.
We are given more than equal and fair.
today’s Gospel, the point is that the kingdom is not about what is.
It's about generosity to people who do not deserve it. The kingdom
isn't about equality or fairness to those who deserve it. It’s
about generosity to those who have done little to receive what they
are given. It is about the generosity of God to people who demand
fairness when they have no idea what fairness is because they have no
idea what generosity or humility is.
let’s set the scene first. Little children are coming to Jesus. The
disciples want to shoo them away. Perhaps they decide they don’t
deserve of Jesus’ attention. Kids haven’t earned their place,
and they are messy and loud. They need to get to the back of the
line with their mommies and daddies. Perhaps the disciples think the
kids are skipping in line. Maybe the disciples are jealous of the
affection Jesus shows the children.
rather than send them to the back of the line, Jesus says the kingdom
belongs to children. The kingdom belongs to adults like the
children. Those who suffer, those who are ignored, those who are
treated like garbage. Jesus says he cares for the unimportant and
then there’s the rich young man who wants to EARN his way into the
kingdom But Jesus says that’s IMPOSSIBLE. And only GOD can bring
someone into the kingdom. People can’t do it on their own. Many
rich people are too greedy, arrogant, complacent, and power hungry
for God's kingdom.
which point Peter pipes up and wonders what reward God has got in
store for the disciples. They’ve given up everything to follow
Jesus. Peter wants to know what sort of return they’ve got coming
on their investment.
there Jesus’ answer is that God’s no man’s debtor. He’ll
repay one hundred fold whatever we’ve given up for his sake. That’s
how GENEROUS God will be! He WON’T give what’s fair. He’ll give
lavishly ABOVE than what we deserve. Way beyond what we’ve EARNED.
the chapter finishes with the summary for how things are ordered in
God’s kingdom. Many who are FIRST will be LAST, and many who are
LAST will be FIRST.
un-noticed children will end up being FIRST. And rich, upright
pillars of society will end up being LAST. Those who showed
gratitude for what little they had will rise above those who sought
more and more, and demanded even more. Those who recognise they’re
EMPTY will receive until they are full. But those who think they are
full and deserve EVERYTHING will receive NOTHING.
then Jesus tells a story to illustrate His point. Which is where we
pick up now. We get a clue that the two bits tie together because ch
20 begins with “for”. Many who are first will be last, and many
who are last will be first. FOR (or BECAUSE)… the kingdom of heaven
is like a landowner.
PARABLE IS JESUS’ ANSWER TO PETER.
let’s look at the story to see what it has to say to Peter. And to
us. It’s a story about hiring, receiving, complaining and
correcting. First up, HIRING.
landowner owns a vineyard. And he needs workers. So he heads out to
the local labour contractor first thing in the morning. He hires a
bunch, and they both agree on payment of one denarius for the day’s
work. The going rate. Fair and reasonable. And so they head off to
work in the vineyard.
then 3 hours later, the owner heads back to the marketplace for MORE
workers. This time there’s no explicit agreement on wages (there in
v4). Only his promise to pay them whatever’s right. They TRUST the
owner, and so THEY TOO head off to the vineyard.
hours later – same thing happens. And again, three hours after
v6, 11 hours into the day, nearly quittin’ time. And the owner
heads back to the market place ONE LAST TIME. There’s STILL people
waiting to be hired for the day. Probably the dregs of the labour
force. Maybe the old or the weak. V7. Still there because no one
wants to hire them.
even THESE GUYS the owner sends off to work in the vineyard. And
notice they head off immediately – no mention of wages. They TRUST
the master. By THIS stage, they’ll take whatever they can get.
the HIRING. Next we come to RECEIVING. The day’s over, and it’s
time to settle accounts. The owner starts with the LAST ONES hired,
and the foreman gives them a denarius each. That’s TWELVE TIMES the
going rate! They worked an hour, and get a full day’s pay!
not told THEIR reaction, but we ARE told how the FIRST ONES HIRED
felt (v10). They quickly do their sums, and they’re rubbing their
hands together in expectation. They reckon, to be FAIR, they should
receive TWELVE TIMES AS MUCH. After all, they’ve worked TWELVE
TIMES AS LONG.
they’ve forgotten what they agreed to at the start of the day.
What’s FAIR is they get paid the going rate for a day’s work. One
denarius. Which is what they GET.
it doesn’t SEEM fair. And so they move from RECEIVING to
When they RECEIVED it, they began to GRUMBLE against the landowner.
12′These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they
said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden
of the work and the heat of the day.’
about ME? It isn’t FAIR! I’ve had enough, and I want my share!
WHOLE GROUP grumbles, but the owner turns to ONLY ONE of them, and
CORRECTS him. V13.
I’m not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a
denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was
hired LAST the same as I gave YOU. 15 Don’t I have the RIGHT to do
what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am
makes two points. First, You’re so busy looking at OTHERS, you’ve
forgotten how YOU’VE been treated – which is PERFECTLY fairly.
Exactly what you deserve. A day’s pay for a day’s work. Nothing
fairer than that! Your REAL problem is that someone else has got
something they DIDN’T deserve. Something BETTER.
That’s MY problem. I can pay OTHER people whatever I want. What
business is it of YOURS to tell me who I can be generous to?
Jesus finishes the story almost the same way he finished talking to
the disciples at the end of ch 19. The same way he’d STARTED this
story. “The last will be first, and the first will be last.”
ties the parable into the question PETER had asked at the end of Ch
perhaps that’s why there’s ONE COMPLAINER in Jesus’ story. One
person singled out for the owner to answer. Because it’s PETER
who’s spoken up for the disciples about what reward they’re all
going to get.
Jesus’ point is that his emphasis is all wrong. He’s too focused
on HIMSELF. Too concerned with what’s fair FOR HIM. And not enough
on THE REST of the people in God’s kingdom. Peter was too focused
on him and not the people suffering around him. Not seeing how hard
the other disciples worked as well. Not seeing what Jesus offered
was not what the world does but what the Father in heaven offers –
life in its fullest.
the early vineyard worker in God’s vineyard. He thinks he’s
EARNED a huge payday from God. But the reality is thinking like THAT
is “LAST PLACE” thinking. Thinking about how you deserve to be in
first place. How you deserve to be paid more. Only leads to coming
LAST. Which means missing out on God’s kingdom all together.
PLACE” thinking means seeing yourself as the eleventh hour workers.
The undeserving ones. They work for an hour expecting 1/12 of what
the first workers get. They expect less than the others. They are
amazed they get the same as the first workers, the second, and third
workers. They get generosity on top of what is fair.
people have a hard time accepting the doctrine of election. That God
chooses people. They say it’s not fair that God chooses some to be
saved, and doesn’t choose everyone. They think that simply cannot
be the way a loving God works, because that wouldn’t be FAIR. MUST
be that WE choose GOD. Surely, that would be more fair so that must
be the way it is. WRONG – God chooses who he pleases just as the
vineyard owner chose the workers. God gives as He wishes to whom He
I’m glad God’s not FAIR. The reality is if God was fair
with EVERYONE, NO ONE would receive eternal life. We’d ALL receive
JUDGMENT. That’s what we DESERVE. That’s a FAIR days pay for a
day’s work – that is what we have earned for our sinning and
rebelling. Yet God gives generously His kingdom and forgiveness.
Those we did not earn. In a sense isn't it all unfair to Jesus.
Afterall Jesus was innocent and was put to death for our salvation.
Yet Jesus says it was the the will of the Father for this to happen.
Why? God is generous and Jesus knew His life was only beginning on
the cross – not ending. With crucifixion came the Resurrection.
reality is we don’t really WANT God to be fair. We’re all rebels
who deserve DEATH. Be assured it is much better that God is LOVING
is the message of the gospel. That while SOME people GET what they
deserve. Fair and just JUDGMENT. OTHERS get what they DON’T deserve
- GRACE. Eternal life. Forgiveness. Reward. A hundred times what
they’ve given up. That’s GOOD NEWS!
ISN’T fair. It’s MORE than fair.
while lots of people COMPLAIN about God’s unfairness. For those of
us who understand it, we should CELEBRATE God’s great generosity.
How INCREDIBLE that he chose us, opened our eyes to his riches, and
gave us the faith to respond!
than putting ourselves in the shoes of the first workers who’ve
earned their pay. Who’ve done God (Ahem!) a favor. Much better to
put ourselves in the shoes of the last workers. Who come in at the
last minute. Hardly work at all. And, undeserving, receive the full
God's kingdom thinking. That’s thinking that works itself out in
lives of thanksgiving.
reality is JESUS is the one who’s earned the pay. He’s the one
who’s worked all day in our place. Who’s born the heat of the
day. Who’s endured his Father’s anger – his justice. So that we
didn’t HAVE to. So that we might come in at the last minute, and
receive the rewards that Jesus has worked for.
the end of this story Matthew describes how Jesus continues on his
way to Jerusalem. V18. And Jesus tells them how he’s going to bear
the burden of the work and the heat of the day. How he’s going to
be betrayed, condemned to death. How he’ll be flogged and
crucified. And that he’ll be raised to life. How he’ll receive
what WE deserve, so that we might receive MUCH MORE than we deserve.
got to learn to walk in the shoes of the LAST HOUR workers, and not
FIRST hour workers. Jesus has already DONE that. Worked all day.
Earned a just wage. And we can’t do it again.
you put yourself in the right shoes, it affects how you think about
YOURSELF. It affects your MOTIVATION for WHY you do things. Doing
them out of GRATITUDE, rather than because you have to - your trying
to earn a wage. You do right because it is right and pleasing God is
what pleases you.
affects how we see and treat other people. We laugh to make others
laugh. We will go without so others do not have to. We seek to be a
gift to people and not a burden. We will comfort those hurting with
a smile and cry with them if necessary. There are no people too
dirty, too smelly, too drunk, too high, or too anything to hear about
what God has generously done for us.
it affects how you think about the things that happen to you in life.
Plenty of people give up on God when something BAD happens in their
life. A business goes bust, or a child goes wild, or a marriage
breaks down. And they blame God. “How could you let this happen to
me? After all I’ve done for you! I don’t DESERVE to be treated
like this. I deserve BETTER!”
DESERVE a better job, or a new lounge, or good health, or great
air-conditioning, or an expensive holiday.
we DESERVE from God is JUDGMENT. But he shows us GRACE. And then,
like EVERY loving Father, he DISCIPLINES us for our GOOD. Bringing
TRIALS our way. Suffering. To make us more like Jesus (That’s
Hebrews 12). Working all things for good for those who LOVE him and
have been called according to his purpose (That’s Romans 8). And so
we can REJOICE in suffering (that’s Romans 5)
Kingdom thinking. Eleventh hour thinking. It affects the way you
think about YOURSELF and your circumstances.
it affects the way you think about EVANGELISM. If you think you’ve
EARNED your place in the kingdom, then you’re CONTENT. God’s
pretty lucky to have you. You can sit back, put your feet up, and
enjoy your place in the sun.
if you’ve worked an hour, and received 12 times the wages you’ve
deserved, wouldn’t you back up for more the next day? And wouldn’t
you bring all of your friends to a job like THAT?
too good NOT to share!
Kingdom thinking – eleventh hour thinking. It affects how you think
about OTHER PEOPLE – how you treat them, and respond to them. It
affects how you FORGIVE them. How you refuse to JUDGE them. Because
you recognize YOU’RE nothing special, so how can you put someone
else BENEATH you, or BEHIND you.
of you know T D Jakes. He’s a mega-minister who’s also a prison
chaplain at Texas prisons. And part of his job is to find churches
for ex-prisoners who’ve become Christians. But it’s not an easy
thing to do. He struggles to find churches who’ll genuinely accept
there are real, practical difficulties to deal with. But often it’s
just the judgmentalism and lack of grace on the part of people in
it shouldn’t BE like that. If we UNDERSTAND where we deserve to be
before God, it should affect how we treat OTHERS.
more than that. It should show itself in our whole attitude to LIFE.
If we really worked that attitude out in all of life. It would make
us a lot more CONTENTED, and less judgmental. A lot more THANKFUL,
and less NEEDY and GRASPING.
would make us less inclined to stand up for our rights. For what we
DESERVE. To get worked up about the person who pushes in, or grabs
our parking spot.
do we really deserve? Do we deserve top marks, or recognition, or a
speedy parking space, or to be served first? No, we deserve God’s
judgment. But he showed us GRACE!
we’ve really UNDERSTOOD that. We should LIVE it.
well are YOU living it?
were at Northpark Mall a couple of weeks ago, and we saw a local
radio station van giving away free stuff in the car park. So the wife
and I went up to van as the radio staff were handing out mugs and
thermos mugs. We were standing a short distance away, waiting while
they organized themselves. And a teenaged girl walked up next to me,
and then inched across in front of me, leaning in closer and pushing
me back to get her free stuff FIRST.
my FIRST reaction was to tell her to get to back of the line. To wait
her turn. I DIDN’T. More because I DIDN’T WANT TO CREATE A SCENE
than because I was being particularly PATIENT. She asked for a
shirt and walked off. We got our stuff a few seconds AFTER her. We
got a full bag of stuff not just a gimme shirt. We got some really
why did I react like that? Because I felt I’d DESERVED justice. I’d
hang on! It was FREE stuff. And I’d done NOTHING for it. We didn’t
pay for it, and we’re still enjoying it. That’s the right
attitude to have. Whether it’s to free stuff, or to the free grace
God’s shown us in Jesus.
we’ve really understood it, we should be LIVING it. How well are
YOU living it? We can be like the first workers who complain about
the masters generosity to others or we can respond as Peter did when
Jesus finished speaking. We can look inside our self and see what we
need to change to come closer to God and to be better servants of
God's Kingdom. That is Peter thinking – that is Kingdom thinking.
That shows we allow God to be in charge. We allow God to lead and we
humbly submit to follow.