Summary: “Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:14-15)
Theme: Don’t begrudge God’s generosity
Text: Jonah 4:1-11; Phil. 1:21-30; Matt. 20:1-16
The decision to believe in Christ is an important decision every person has to make in life as it affects where we will spend eternity. Paul believed in Christ and knew he would spend eternity in His presence and so could confidently declare “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. (Phil. 1:21) Paul chose to live because he was concerned about the eternal destiny of those living without Christ. He wanted to lead them to Christ so that they could live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Life is like a marketplace filled with people who need to hear the gospel of Christ. The labourers in Jesus’ parable today would have spent the whole day in the marketplace, idle and without hope, if the landowner had not offered them a job. The men who were hired last worked only one hour, yet were paid the same as those who had worked 12 hours. They received more than they expected and were grateful for the generosity of the landowner. The labourers who were employed first negotiated a wage and had no reason to hold a grudge against the landowner for his generosity.
The negotiation of a contract is part of the value system of the world. This system uses productivity to determine wages. The first workers employed in the parable chose this system to relate to the landowner. The value system of the world has a pay structure that increases with increased working hours. Workers who work longer hours are paid more than those who work less hours. It also demands that those who have spent a longer time in employment are considered first and given preference when increases in wage and bonus are due.
The value system of God is different from the value system of the world. God does not treat us according to our works but according to His compassion and mercy. According to their works the people of Nineveh deserved to be destroyed. God, however, in mercy sent Jonah to call them to repentance. Jonah hated the people of Nineveh so much he run away in the opposite direction to avoid preaching to them. When he finally came to Nineveh, the whole city repented and was saved. Jonah instead of being happy at what had happened was so grieved that he was ready to die. He felt that the people of Nineveh did not deserve to be saved although he himself was a recipient of the grace, mercy and love of God. God does not want any of us to perish and through repentance and belief in Christ we have access to His presence. Let us turn to Christ today and enjoy His abundant provision.
The value system of God is based on love “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. (John 3:16) God does not love us because of who we are and what we have done but because of who He is. “God is love”. This value system is by grace because Christ has fully paid the price for sin. We are saved “By grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God”. (Eph. 2:8) The workers who did not work the full time knew perfectly well that they had received a gift they did not deserve. The reason the men who worked 12 hours in the vineyard were so upset was that they were only concerned about themselves. They resented the generosity of God because it was not extended to them.
The men who accepted the value system of God were spared the value system of the world. In the world’s value system wages were determined by productivity, working hours and seniority. In God’s value system relationship replaced work and His generous provisions replaced wages as seen in today’s parable. The landowner was more concerned about a relationship with the labourers than about the work. On His first trip to the marketplace the labourers he employed were more interested in their reward that they first negotiated their wages. To them it was just another day’s work, a job, and a pay cheque. They missed the landowners’ interest in a relationship. On His subsequent trips at 9 O’clock in the morning, at noon, at 3 O’clock in the afternoon and finally at 5 O’clock these workers realised the value of a relationship with the landowner. They saw no need to negotiate a wage. God values each one of us and offers us to work in His kingdom because He wants a relationship with us. Let us accept His gracious offer and enjoy His presence.