Summary: The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of grace - we are called to be grateful to God and to recognize others as our equals in God’s Kingdom.
No Fair! Matt. 20:1-16
Your Kingdom Come: July 13, 2003
Growing up with an older sibling, one of the frequent cries out of my mouth was one some of you parents hear on a daily basis: “no fair!” You know, “How come he gets to stay up later? How come he gets to choose what to watch on TV? How come he gets to be in charge when we are home alone? How come we have to share the last piece of cake?” The most frequent, and least satisfying, response I heard to my heart-felt cries against the grave injustice I experienced was: “You’re right. It isn’t fair. Neither is life, so be quiet and live with it.” The most Solomon like response was to the sharing the piece of cake complaint – my mom always made one of us split it and then the other one got to choose which piece they wanted.
It reminds me of the story of a mother who was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake... Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”
Our look at what the Kingdom of God is like continues today in Matt 20. The story arises out of a familiar incident in Matt 19 – the rich young ruler who approaches Jesus with the question, “What must I do to be saved?” The end result is that Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give it to the poor. He uses this opportunity to instruct His disciples that wealth is a huge impediment to entering the Kingdom of God, and in response Peter asks this question: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matt 19:27). It is kind of a prideful question – almost like, “We’re not like that!! We’re good! We have left everything, we must be in for a pretty good reward!!!” Jesus answers first in the affirmative – “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much” (vs 29). And incidentally, while on holidays I went to church in Vancouver and heard a missionary speak who attested to the truth of this verse. He said he left his mom behind in England, and got a hundred moms in Rwanda. He left his sister, and got a hundred sisters. He left behind the occasional cold and bought of the flu, and instead got malaria and amoebic dysentery and all kinds of vile tropical diseases…
After making this affirmative statement, Jesus continues and tells a parable in Matt. 20:1-16. I will read the passage in a few minutes, but first let me tell you a modern version of the same story:
A Modern Version of the Parable of the Labourers:
A large, mulit-national, retail giant moved into a new city. We’ll call it “Stuff Mart.” They put an add in the paper inviting applications for people to work for one month to stock their shelves, and received 100 applications. The manager went through them all, chose the best 25, and offered them a job. “At the end of the month,” he said, “I’ll pay you $2000 cash.” They agreed, and went to work. One week into the month, he phoned another 25. “Come and work, and at the end of the month I’ll pay you a fair wage.” The next week he phoned the next 25, and made the same offer. Finally, the last week, he phoned the last 25. The ones with no education, lousy references, a series of bad jobs, many of whom hadn’t even filled out their application properly and obviously couldn’t spell. They too came and worked. At the end of the month, he called everyone together and lined them up to pay them. The lowly, poor workers who had come for only one week were first. They hadn’t been particularly productive, due to their lack of many very basic skills. But as they approached the table, the manager handed them each 20, $100 dollar bills. (for those of you struggling with the math, that’s $2000…). Imagine their reaction! Those who had been hired at the beginning of the month got excited!! We slaved all month long, we worked much harder and accomplished much more, I wonder what we will get paid!!! When their turn came, they also received 20, $100 dollar bills. They got upset, called Buzz Hargrove and the international StuffMart Union, and lodged a protest. “It’s not fair!” they cried. “We worked all month and accomplished much more than the losers you hired the last week. We deserve more than them.” The manager replied, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for $2000? Take your pay and go. I want to give those who were hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”