Summary: There is something that is toxic to the soul (to use a phrase by Dr. Andrew McQuitty, pastor of Irving Bible Church) to Christians and non-Christians alike, to those in professional fields and to those in agricultural vocations. It’s called COMPARISION.
Opening Statement: Have you ever asked the question “Why me?” You’ve done your best but your best never seems to be good enough. You’ve worked just as hard, paid just as many dues, slogged through just as many valleys and hard places, as the other guy, yet you never seem to be able to break through to see the light of day. Have you ever looked around and thought, “Man, they have it better than I do.”? I am even more committed and dedicated to building the kingdom of God than they are, yet they’re the ones that have it easy.
Transition: There is something that is toxic to the soul (to use a phrase by Dr. Andrew McQuitty, pastor of Irving Bible Church) to Christians and non-Christians alike, to those in professional fields and to those in agricultural vocations. It’s called COMPARISION.
Illustration: Well, they have a better paying job than I have. He has a bigger church than I have. Farmer Brown has a bigger tractor than I’ve got. They have the nice office with a view, and well, all I have to look at are cinder blocks and mouse traps. Her car is newer than mine. Why do they get the full ride scholarship and make A’s and I have to work at 7-Eleven and go part time and just manage to squeeze by with C’s? Jimmy has a nice, new shiny bike, and well, my bike is held together by bungee cords and laundry pins.
Title/Question: Comparison. Toxic to the soul. Have you been there? Virtually, every one of us from all age groups has done this. Thanksgiving offers to you an opportunity to step away from the comparison game, look up toward God, and give thanks.
Text: Matthew 20:1-16
Background: The context for the parable that Jesus tells is about a rich young ruler whom Jesus challenges to leave it all behind and come and follow Him. He was unable to do so and Peter seems to pick up on this idea and states in Matthew 19 to Jesus, “Lord, I have left everything to follow you. So, what’s in it for me?” His implication is that when Jesus implements his Kingdom, then Peter and the crew should get special places of service with a lot of power and prestige. Jesus responds to this with a story. Parables turn life upside down to make a point.
Disclaimer: This story is not a recipe for industrial peace! It represents a horrible pay structure! I can see all the union members posting this story on their office walls. The focus here is on the kingdom. It’s told for illustrative purposes.
Recitation: Matthew 20:1-16
1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2 "When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 "And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place;
4 and to those he said, ’You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went.
5 "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.
6 "And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ’Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’
7 "They said to him, ’Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ’You go into the vineyard too.’
8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ’Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’
9 "When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius.
10 "When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius.
11 "When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner,
12 saying, ’These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’
13 "But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?
14 Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’
16 "So the last shall be first, and the first last."
Exposition: Basically, what we have here in this intriguing story is a landowner who needs to contract out short term, temporary labor to harvest his grapes before the Autumn showers hit. So at 6 AM, he hires a group of workers to go harvest his grapes for the going rate of a denarius a day. The denarius was a silver coin worth about a day’s wage for a laborer in Palestine in the 1st century. The landowner goes looking for workers again at 9 AM, 12 NOON, 3 PM and again at 5 PM to hire additional workers. So this landowner has amassed quickly a labor force to get the job done. I’m sure that those who started working in the morning appreciated the extra help. However, when quitting time rolls around, something just blows everyone’s mental categories. The landowner informs his manager to pay the last workers hired first and to pay everyone according to the previously agreed upon rate which was one denarius.