Summary: A sermon about grace.

“Found in the Marketplace”

Matthew 20:1-16

Most of us have been hurt by a bully at some time in our lives.

Perhaps it was in elementary school, middle school, high school or even at work.

Maybe that person made our lives miserable for a considerable amount of time.

Perhaps 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years later the scars from their relentless attacks still haven’t completely healed.

Is there someone like that in your history, in your life?

Think about that person for a second.

Think about the pain that person inflicted upon you.

Now think about going to heaven and seeing that person there, ahead of you even—worshiping God with a huge smile on their face and gleams of joy in their eyes.

How would that make you feel?

Would you rejoice, or would you grumble a bit?

Would it seem unfair?

Or think about this.

Imagine getting to heaven and seeing Hitler.

Imagine watching God gently wiping away every tear from his eyes.

Imagine seeing Jesus leading him to green pastures and springs of living water.

What would you think?

How would you feel?

Especially if you had been one of the people who had died in one of his concentration camps or had been put to death in one of his ovens?

He murdered 6 million people.

But what if he gave his life to Christ at the last moment—and he was enjoying heaven alongside saints who had lost their lives trying to save people from his gas chambers?

“Are you envious because I am generous?” asks the owner of the vineyard in our parable for this morning.

This parable rubs many of us the wrong way.

Who are the people who “began to grumble against the landowner” because he paid everyone the same whether they had been the first to be hired and had worked all day or whether they had hardly worked at all?

That’s us—if we take it far enough, is it not?

I mean think about it.

The people who were hired at the end of the day not only got the same pay as everyone else, they got paid first!!!

What is this?

What is going on?

Is this some kind of cruel joke?

We are part of Jesus’ parable of the Workers in the Vineyard because we carry around with us ideas about what is fair and what is not.

And this story is not fair.

Now, we might agree that the owner of the vineyard can run his business any way he wants, but his payroll policies are messed up.

We want to agree, yes, everyone needs a job, needs a fair day’s wage to keep food on the table; but if the master is determined to be generous, why not pay those people who worked all day a bonus?

That would be fair.

But his generosity does not seem just.

And so we take our places with those who were hired first, paid last, and now complain.

We join the grumbling in the back of the line.

But in doing this, we forget something extremely important.

We forget that we all began in the same place, in the same situation.

I mean think about it.

Where does this story start?

The landowner, who obviously represents God, went out into the marketplace early in the morning to find people to work in his vineyard.

He found a bunch of people standing around doing nothing, feeling hopeless and useless.

He came upon a bunch of directionless, lost people.

And he offered them a place in his kingdom.

He gave them a job to do.

And they took it.

Then he went back to the marketplace again, and here he found other lost and broken people with nothing to do.

“He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’

So they went.”

He did this all day long.

He went searching for people.

And when he found people, he invited them in—promising them something they had always wanted but had never yet been offered.

They didn’t go looking for him.

He came looking for them…

…like a shepherd searching for a lost sheep…

…or a woman searching for a lost coin.

If he hadn’t come to the marketplace that day—none of them would have worked.

None of them would have been paid anything.

They all would have been in the same boat.

But now, the ones he found first are mad.

And they aren’t so much mad at the other workers; they are mad at the vineyard owner!

They are mad at his generosity.

“These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us…”

“You have made them equal to us…”

This parable is not about money; it goes much deeper, to what the money represents.

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