Sunday, September 21, 2008

Proper 20 - Matt. 20:1-16

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

10653 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Celebrating our 170th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

September 21, 2008
Proper 20
Matthew 20:1-16
God’s Wages

Lord God, You call us to work in your vineyard and leave no one standing idle. Set us to our tasks in the work of Your kingdom, and help us to order our lives by Your wisdom.”
Introduction: Some people are never satisfied. They are not even satisfied with God’s gifts, wages, or rewards. It depends on how you look at it. From the world’s viewpoint, God’s giving the same pay regardless of hours worked is most unjust.

From the Christian viewpoint, God’s wages are more generous. Because of whom we are and the wrong we have done, we rightfully should get nothing but condemnation. God gives His grace to all regardless how long or how well they worked for him. Those who began to work at the beginning of the day have no reason to complain. They had the joy and the privilege of being in the kingdom and of working for God.

Christians do not serve for wages. You cannot pay a person for being or doing good. His only reward is being in God’s kingdom and doing God’s will.

The parable begs the question. What is your reaction to God’s generosity?

1. There are those who will Grumble — the world’s view of God’s generosity — vv. 8-15. “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. So, when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. '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? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'

A. Paying the same wage to those who worked twelve hours, or one hour, is unfair. When the wages are handed out, those who worked one hour received the same pay as those who worked twelve hours. The twelve-hour men protested, complained, and grumbled. And they were justified in doing so! It was a case of rank injustice! It was unfair to those who worked all day.

B. This is the world’s protest, but the kingdom of God is different from the world. God does not use the same methods or measures for reward.
C. God’s pay scale contradicts our notion of rewards. The enemies of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, grumbled about Christ’s gracious offer to sinners. Even Peter thought he and the other disciples should have received more then those who had not left their homes, their families and jobs to follow the Savior. Yet God deals fairly with us. God is a real equal opportunity employer. Whatever we give up we receive back a hundred -fold, and finally we receive eternal life. As Jesus says in Matthew 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

Transition: There are those who grumble. There are those who are grateful.

2. Then there are those who are Grateful — God’s view of man’s needs — vv. 13-15.
A. God our heavenly Father lives up to His promise to pay — v. 13. But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Yet, isn’t it wonderful that even those of us who worked only one hour also receive a denarius? There is a lesson to be learned here. The work itself is already a reward in and of itself! Just to be a Christian is a privilege. It is not a wearisome duty but a happy service, no matter how long God allows us to serve. Thus we can say that there is no richer, fuller life than that of a disciple of Christ. The wage question in the kingdom of God need not trouble us. In the kingdom there is no unemployment, and the wage level is uniformly high.

B. He alone has a right to do what He pleases with His own — v. 15a. Don't have the right to do what I want with my own money? God has a right to do what He pleases with His own. We are his workmanship. He is the one who is deserving of our praise. We are obligated to Him. We are obligated to His Words and promises. He has the right to save and redeem those whom He pleases. This is why the landlord went back to the market place again and again. We should no wise doubt that firmly believe then, that this gracious act of the Father is an indication of His good and gracious will toward us. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.

C. The Lord is generous to all — v. 15b. Or are you envious because I am generous?' God lives up to His promise to pay. We might go back on our words and try to wiggle out of a commitment. Not so with the Savior. He has graciously promised that He will in no wise cast us aside. He went to the bloody cross on Good Friday to win for us salvation and life. There are literally hundreds of predictions in the Old Testament pointing to the cross. Jesus fulfilled them all and the payment for sin has been paid in full. The debt we owe has been paid.

Conclusion: How does God justify the apparent injustice in the payment of wages? God claims he is God, and can do what he pleases with his own. This, too, is different for today’s employer. He cannot pay what he wants or hire those he wants to work for him. He is limited by laws. God deals differently from the world.

His grace (payment) is not determined by wages or hours worked. God is so generous that he gives the denarius of grace (salvation) to everyone regardless of length of service or quantity of work performed. God goes beyond justice to give his peace to all who come, whenever they come.

We learn important lessons about God and about grace. None of us deserve the benefits of the kingdom. Others have worked longer and harder than we have. Some have suffered incredible persecution, but the reward of the heavenly banquet is offered to all without regard to our work(s) or the price we have paid to be part of the kingdom.

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