Philippians 1:12–14, 19–30
Disciples Live in Their Vocations by Grace through Faith in Christ
Those who are sent as “laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1) depict the wide diversity of vocations to which the disciples of Christ Jesus are called. Whatever our particular stations in life may be, we are called to live and serve by faith in His promises. Our labors do not merit anything before Him, for He is already generous to one and all without partiality. In mercy He has chosen to bear “the burden of the day and the scorching heat” on our behalf, to make us equal to Himself and to give us what belongs to Him, that is, the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 20:12–15). This way of the Lord is foolishness to the world and foreign to our thoughts, but He draws near, so that “he may be found” (Isaiah 55:6), “he may have compassion” and “abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). So it is that we are found in Christ Jesus, and He is honored in our bodies, “whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20), by “fruitful labor” (Philippians 1:22) or by suffering. It is by faith in His forgiveness that our works are “worthy of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
In the Lessons for this week the Gospel, as usual, gives the key to the theme of the day. When a payment time comes for the laborers in the vineyard, it was learned that each was to receive equal pay regardless of hours worked. The reward is the same in the Kingdom whether we enter early or late. They who return to the Lord (Old Testament reading) will receive mercy and pardon. In the Epistle lesson, Paul says he does not know whether to live or die, because death would mean a closer relationship with Christ, his greatest reward. The Lord is good to all. The suggested Psalm relates to the Old Testament lesson –“seek the Lord.”
Collect for Proper 20 “Lord God heavenly Father, since we cannot stand before You relying on anything we have done, help us trust in Your abiding grace and live according to Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” Amen
Grace Doesn’t Seem Right
Rev. Dr. Daniel J. Brege
Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. (Matthew 20:10)
We rightly expect to be paid or rewarded for what we do. Even Scripture says that the laborer is worthy of his wages (1 Tim 5:18). However God’s gracious gifts are in no way a reward for any of our efforts or works. Jesus illustrates this kingdom-reality in Sunday’s parable. In the parable we observe the master of the house hiring people to work in His vineyard. As the parable concludes we see that no matter how much time each laborer spent working, they each received a full day’s wages. Grace doesn’t seem right.
Our salvation is a gift. It was first earned and created by God’s grace in His Son: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor 8:9). Christ’s grace-prompted death for us created indescribable wealth for mankind. God in Christ created complete forgiveness and the resurrection to eternal life!
Because God is the creator of our salvation, He has the prerogative to freely give what belongs to Him (v 15). How then would God distribute such wealth? He does it through what we Lutherans call The Means of Grace, which is simply the Word and Sacraments. Through such means of grace we are called and empowered to believe in Christ our Savior, and thus by faith receive the gifts of forgiveness and eternal salvation. This gracious salvation is described by Paul in Ephesians 2: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (v 8-9). We are not saved by our works. They earn nothing.
How then does such salvation appear to be wages? Upon being saved through His means of grace, God empowers each believer to do God-pleasing works. Such works are necessary, but they are not necessary to save us. Thus immediately following Paul’s statement of grace in Ephesians 2:8-9, we hear him in the same breath explain, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Indeed we are created in Christ Jesus for good works. Because of the sinful flesh that still clings to each of us, we begin to think that somehow our works have special merit before God. Some are led to think that an official church-worker has the most merit, and should receive a special reward; or that a Christian who has served the Lord for fifty years should receive more from God than a Christian who served for five years. Such thinking misunderstands grace. Grace neither looks at the amount of works created in Christ Jesus nor does it look at the supposed quality of such works.
In God’s kingdom the great works are the humble works that the baptized perform in their respective vocations. In Colossians 3:17-22 the Apostle explains this nicely: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they will not become discouraged. Slaves [today, employees], obey your earthly masters in everything, not only to please them while they are watching, but with sincerity of heart and fear of the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men, because you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as your reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Note at the end of this quote that we are not rewarded for fulfilling our vocations, but our “reward” is the “inheritance,” an inheritance earned and given by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The parable of the laborers in the vineyard in the Gospel lesson for this coming week reminds us that God’s generosity is equal to all. When payment time came for the laborers in the vineyard, it was learned that each was to receive equal pay regardless of hours worked. The reward is the same in the kingdom whether we enter early or late. The thief on the cross receives the same reward as the faithful Christian who lives eighty plus years. Are we to spurn God’s generosity?
Laborers in the Vineyard
“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.
Ὁμοία γάρ ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδεσπότῃ ὅστις ἐξῆλθεν ἅμα πρωῒ μισθώσασθαι ἐργάτας εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα αὐτοῦ.
After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius[a] a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
συμφωνήσας δὲ μετὰ τῶν ἐργατῶν ἐκ δηναρίου τὴν ἡμέραν ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα αὐτοῦ.
And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
καὶ ἐξελθὼν περὶ τρίτην ὥραν εἶδεν ἄλλους ἑστῶτας ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ ἀργούς•
and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’
καὶ ἐκείνοις εἶπεν• Ὑπάγετε καὶ ὑμεῖς εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα, καὶ ὃ ἐὰν ᾖ δίκαιον δώσω ὑμῖν•
So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
οἱ δὲ ἀπῆλθον. [b]πάλιν ἐξελθὼν περὶ ἕκτην καὶ ἐνάτην ὥραν ἐποίησεν ὡσαύτως.
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?’
περὶ δὲ τὴν ἑνδεκάτην ἐξελθὼν εὗρεν ἄλλους ἑστῶτας, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς• Τί ὧδε ἑστήκατε ὅλην τὴν ἡμέραν ἀργοί;
They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’
λέγουσιν αὐτῷ• Ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἡμᾶς ἐμισθώσατο. λέγει αὐτοῖς• Ὑπάγετε καὶ ὑμεῖς εἰς τὸν [e]ἀμπελῶνα.
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.’
ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης λέγει ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος τῷ ἐπιτρόπῳ αὐτοῦ• Κάλεσον τοὺς ἐργάτας καὶ ἀπόδος [f]αὐτοῖς τὸν μισθὸν ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῶν ἐσχάτων ἕως τῶν πρώτων.
And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.
καὶ ἐλθόντες οἱ περὶ τὴν ἑνδεκάτην ὥραν ἔλαβον ἀνὰ δηνάριον.
Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.
καὶ ἐλθόντες οἱ πρῶτοι ἐνόμισαν ὅτι [i]πλεῖον λήμψονται• καὶ ἔλαβον [j]τὸ ἀνὰ δηνάριον καὶ αὐτοί.
And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house,
λαβόντες δὲ ἐγόγγυζον κατὰ τοῦ οἰκοδεσπότου
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.’
λέγοντες• Οὗτοι οἱ ἔσχατοι μίαν ὥραν ἐποίησαν, καὶ ἴσους [l]αὐτοὺς ἡμῖν ἐποίησας τοῖς βαστάσασι τὸ βάρος τῆς ἡμέρας καὶ τὸν καύσωνα
But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?
ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς [m]ἑνὶ αὐτῶν εἶπεν• Ἑταῖρε, οὐκ ἀδικῶ σε• οὐχὶ δηναρίου συνεφώνησάς μοι;
Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.
ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε• θέλω δὲ τούτῳ τῷ ἐσχάτῳ δοῦναι ὡς καὶ σοί•
Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’[b]
οὐκ ἔξεστίν μοι [o]ὃ θέλω ποιῆσαι ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς; [p]ἢ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου πονηρός ἐστιν ὅτι ἐγὼ ἀγαθός εἰμι;
So the last will be first, and the first last.”
οὕτως ἔσονται οἱ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι καὶ οἱ πρῶτοι [q]ἔσχατοι.
Matthew 20:2 A denarius was a day's wage for a laborer
Matthew 20:15 Or is your eye bad because I am good?
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Scripture quotations marked SBLGNT are from The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition. Copyright © 2010 by Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software