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Summary: Can you really live with grace?

“Can You Live with Grace?”

Matthew 20:1-16

On the first day of class the professor says, “I have this very complicated Math problem, the solution of which shall constitute you grade for the entire semester. I’m giving you the problem now so you can start working immediately if you hope to pass the course. I want you all to make A’s.” You want to do well so you get to work. You go to the library. You begin the calculation. To your surprise, you note that, even by mid-February, only a few of your fellow classmates have begun to work on the problem. Well, that’s their business. They will be sorry come May. The week before exams, you are proudly putting the finishing touches on your paper and the solution to the problem. Some in the class tell you that if they work hard over the next few days they might get it finished. There are others who haven’t even begun. But, that’s their problem. On the last day of the semester, you proudly bring your work in person to the professor. To your surprise, everyone else has their work done as well. You’re stunned. Then you begin to hear some comments. “Professor, thanks for helping me figure this out last week. Without your help, I would never have finished.” “Here it is professor. All done, thanks to your kind assistance yesterday.” “Thanks for coming by the dorm last night to help me.” Now you’re really stunned. No wonder they finished; while you were hard at work, on your own, the professor was all over campus spoon-feeding it to everybody – everybody but you, that is. So you tell the professor what you think of this. She replies, “Why do you begrudge my generosity? The goal of class is to get people to finish the problem. You were able to finish it on your own. Fine. The others needed a little special attention. You get an A. They get an A. What’s wrong with that? Am I not doing you right?” 1

Can you live with grace?

Jesus’ parable for today presents just such A DISTURBING PROBLEM. When we go back in to the 19th chapter we discover that this parable is set within A CONTEXT OF GRACE. The rich young man has just asked Jesus about eternal life and how to obtain it. The disciples then asked how, if a rich good young man cannot be saved, who can be? Peter follows with a question about what reward the disciples will get for leaving everything to follow Jesus. The disciples were wondering what was in it for them. So Jesus is dealing with the issue of rewards. Part of Jesus’ answer was to share this parable of grace, a parable in which those who worked all day were upset because, at the end of the day, they didn’t feel they got what they deserved.

Most of us know that feeling, don’t we? I do. In fact, I’ve felt it often throughout my life. I remember, for example, in high school, trying out for a solo part in the annual variety show. I was a cinch to make it – after all I was in the honors quartet, the state high school honors choir, and had soloed before. But I didn’t make it. What was worse was that the guy who did had never soloed before, sang a little flat, and was asked not only to sing but to emcee the evening. It wasn’t fair. He did nothing to deserve it. I did. Ever felt that way?

Our son spent a week at a very reputable soccer camp, learning how to be a better goalie. By the end of the summer it was clear he had more skill than his friend who was also a goalie. But at the last moment, shortly before the first game of the season, another classmate, who had never played goalie and who was really a tennis player who just wanted to stay in shape, said he wanted to play goalie. He was appointed the starter. It wasn’t fair; he didn’t deserve it; the coach was playing favorites. Ever been there?

You’ve been with the company for several years. You’ve put in all the overtime, gotten great reviews, and are in line for promotion. But then a new gal –one who just graduated and has no experience, one whom all the guys like because she’s such a knock out – gets hired at your pay rate and then gets your promotion. It’s not right. It’s unjust. You deserved that promotion and recognition. Can you identify with that?

You’ve attended church and Sunday School all your life. You were a leader in the youth group. You sang on the worship team. You pretty much did it all. Then that guy who lived down the street from church came to Jesus and got saved. Everybody seemed to drool over him. He even got asked, in numerous settings, to share his story. But you were never asked to do so; no one drooled over you. In fact, you were convinced that everyone took you pretty much for granted. Why bother working so hard and putting in so much time? In the end somebody else gets all the attention you deserve.

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