“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 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.’
But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am 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 generous?’
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The disciples were confused.
Not that long ago some parents had brought their young children to Jesus. The disciples immediately tried to send them away. How could these young ones follow Jesus? He didn’t have time for them. They’ll just play around and get in the way without anything of merit to contribute.
Jesus told them that “the kingdom of heaven belonged to such as these.” (Mt. 19:14)
“Ok, Jesus wants them in the kingdom, even though they have nothing to contribute, but a bit of drool.”
Then, a rich, young man had approached. An entrepreneur. He had the know how, the drive, and the economic resources to really boost this whole discipleship movement.
But Jesus put up such a high standard: keep all the commandments and then sell everything and follow their movement that the man ended up walking away dejectedly.
What was going on? Why was Jesus extending grace to those without merit, but turning away those with much merit!?!
The disciples were confused. So. Jesus told this parable
“A landowner…went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.” Most likely he headed to the marketplace where workers would go to be hired. It’s the old fashioned equivalent of heading to Lowe’s or Home Depot where you will find workers for hire waiting outside near the carts.
He found some workers and He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. (v.2) A denarius was a common day’s wage. Eleven hours of work for about a hundred dollars. Fair enough. They’ll start work at 7am and go until 6pm.
After going back and setting them up with the work they had to do, he went back to the market to get more workers. In fact, he goes back four separate times. Once at 9am, once at noon, and once at three. Then he comes back at 5pm when there’s only 1 hour left. He finds a few guys who haven’t done any work all day. They are just lounging around – perhaps they are even finishing up a PBR—giving up on any work for that day.
Somehow the Vineyard owner persuades them. They go to work in the vineyard…maybe thinking, “I’ll make enough money for another beer.”
Then, it’s quitting time. He calls them all to get paid. First in line are the guys who came at 5pm.
Imagine their surprise when he reaches into his pouch and pulls out one shiny new denarius for each worker. $100 for an hour of work? Not bad.
But as excited as those workers were, imagine the excitement that those who had been working all day felt. They’d been there 11 hours. If these guys got $100 for one hour, then they’d get $100 x 11, $1100 dollars.
Think of what you could buy with that! It’s a nice down payment on a car. A whole month’s worth of rent. 275 bags of Doritos! Suddenly, the long hard day of work in the hot sun of the vineyard field was well worth it.
Picture what happens next. The boss calls them forward. They are trying to withhold their excitement as they step up to the front. They hold out their hands…maybe even close their eyes just to be a bit more surprised. The boss places his payment into their hands. They open their eyes.
Yep. The exact same amount that the guys who only worked for an hour got.
Jesus says, “When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.”
That’s not fair! We worked all day. What an unfair boss you are. Don’t you appreciate a hard worker? I’m reporting you to the Better Business Bureau of Jerusalem for unfair labor conditions!!! We have merited so much more.
The business owner doesn’t blink. ”Excuse me? Am I being unfair? Didn’t we make a deal? Weren’t you willing to work for a fair wages of a denarius? Didn’t I give you just that? I gave them a day’s wage, yes. But what is it to you? You didn’t lose any money. You got paid exactly what I said you would. I didn’t have to hire you and give you anything! Be thankful for what I am giving you, take your money, and go.”
Now Jesus doesn’t tell us this story so that we can put it to the test of our justice system and see if there needs to be a Labor Union set up for Vineyard workers in order to prevent the exploitation of others.
It’s a parable. There’s a spiritual meaning behind it. Jesus is warning us to watch out for entitlement!
Entitlement is a part of our society today. Entitlement means “This is what I’m entitled to. It’s what I’ve earned.” A coworker gets a raise and we better get the same raise. Someone gets off of work an hour early; we better get that same perk. If someone gets paid $15 an hour for a job that requires a college level education, I should get paid $15 for a job that doesn’t require a college level education?
It even happens with kids. They get upset if they don’t get a birthday party with a pony, a clown, and $500 in gifts because “My friend got that and so should I!”
Be wary that our culture of entitlement. It doesn’t take over your views on spiritual matters. Watch out for spiritual entitlement. It’s dangerous and it leads you to feel like God owes you.
Be careful. This entitlement comes in three areas:
· TIME. I’m entitled to more blessings from God because I’ve spent more time a Christian. I’ve logged in more hours at Gethsemane. I’m one of the stable members of Adult Bible class. I sat through even the boring parts!
· WORK. God has got to be more pleased with me than your average church goer because of all the good things I’ve done. I’ve been a part of many maintenance projects at church, I’ve been on the Council, the altar guild, the cookie makers, the lawn mowing team, the ushers, the nursery, the Sunday School teachers...I even have picked up litter in the parking lot, so I’m basically the WELS version of Greenpeace.
· MONEY. God has to be impressed with all the money I’ve given...10% of my paycheck always has gone to church. In fact, there are a few years I’ve given 10.1% by accident…but I didn’t complain. It makes me a little better than those who don’t…I know. God’s got a special place in heaven for me. I should get a plaque on this church’s wall.
Hmmm…? Does that sound familiar at all?
Then, in spite of our feeling of being entitled to specific things: God comes out in his Word and says this to all people, “Whoever believes in me will not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16) He says, “All have sinned…and all are justified freely by God’s grace in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23) He says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mk. 16:15)
No time requirements. No money amounts. No work awards. There’s no difference – God gives the same promise to all.
That’s when entitlement attitude really starts to kick in:
Really God? That guy? He hasn’t done anything. He’s barely been at church. He’s not a part of any service group. I’ve never seen him put a dime in the offering basket! And you’re offering him the same promise of love and forgiveness? I even see Pastor spending extra time talking to him after church? What did he do to deserve that? And why are we having a New Member Sunday? Shouldn’t we be having a “Long Time Member" Sunday?
That’s unfair God! You should give him as he deserves. You should give me as I deserve.
Really? You want God to be fair. You want God to “give you what you deserve.”
Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.” You ever sinned? If so, what do you deserve?
I’m reminded of that time in a college English class when I approached the English Professor and asked him for a better grade on my test. I had a B and I thought I deserve an A!
Then, he said, “Oh, you wanted me to give you what you deserved? I had thrown out a few questions and graded on a curve, but I guess I could put those questions which you got wrong back into the test and drop the curve. Would you be happy with a C-?”
Trust me on this. In Spiritual matters, you don’t want what you deserve. Because what you, I, we deserve is hell.
So let’s go back to God’s promises. In spite of your sin he says, ‘’You who believe in Jesus as their Savior, will not perish, but have eternal life.” "You who have sinned…are justified freely by God’s grace.” You who “believe and are baptized will be saved.”
Think about what God is offering you. Heaven. A place you can’t get into unless you are perfect! Yet God offers it to you. Not because you earned it, but as a gift. Romans 6:23 continues, “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”
And this gift is more than just heaven. It is the forgiveness for all of your sins. Peace with God. A new life on this earth serving God. An eternal life in the pain free, sin free, glorious streets of heaven!
That’s a pretty fair deal, isn’t it? We deserve hell, but we get heaven. All for believing his promise!
Then, instead of grumbling when others receive this message, why not rejoice!?!
If someone puts a picture of something they are happy about online, how do people react? A cute puppy picture? LIKE! A new outfit! COMMENT: That looks fantastic! “You just had a baby? I’ll SHARE it with my friends.”
Why not do the same thing with new believers? Why not celebrate? Celebrate when they are but a child OR celebrate when they are much older. Have a party! Give a bunch of high fives! Pray countless prayers of thanks AND sing the hymns in worship with a whole new vigor.
And understand this, it isn’t a celebration of THEM. It’s not a celebration of YOU. It’s a celebration of GOD!
So…here’s your challenge this week:
1) Read Romans 3. The first part of the chapter will remind you of what you really deserve, while the second part of the chapter will fill your heart with the amazing nature of God’s love! Read it and be thankful for the gifts you have been given.
2) Share the Message of Jesus with someone who doesn’t look like he deserves it. Specifically reach out to someone with a tattoo OR at a bar. I’m gonna have my business cards available after church. Why not just grab a few, have them on hand, and be ready to say, “Hey, I wanted to invite you to our church on Sunday! I want you to learn about grace.”
3) Meet and talk with newer members. This is something to put into practice right after worship. Find someone you haven’t talked to before. Find someone who looks new to you. Introduce yourself. If you know everyone’s name already, then find someone that you don’t know much about. Show that you care about them. Show that you are thankful they are here. Show that you happy to marvel at God’s grace together with them. Tell them, “It’s a joy to have you here!”
At the beginning, we mentioned how the disciples were confused by Jesus, but it’s my hope that today’s parable hasn’t left you confused at all. Because, it’s clear. God doesn’t base the reward of his forgiveness on our merits. God bases it on his grace!
Praise God it is so. Amen.