Summary: A different twist on the parable of the vineyard owner that offers who to those in desperate need of relief and recovery through the reforms of Jesus Christ.

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Between the years 1933 and 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted a series of economic programs called “The New Deal.” "His programs served as a response to the effects of the Great Depression, and “focused on what historians call the "3 Rs": Relief, Recovery, and Reform. That is, Relief for the unemployed and poor; Recovery of the economy; and Reform of the financial system to prevent another depression.”

Unfortunately, FDR’s New Deal is now in need of an overhaul, because history has repeated itself. Once again, we’re in need of another “New Deal.” ---------- PAUSE --------- But, can government fix things this time around? Or, is there another solution out there — one far older and more effective?

This morning, we’re going to look at the time when Jesus told his followers a story of God’s “New Deal.” We’re going to take a play on FDR’s policies, and see how God’s 3 R’s of Relief, Recovery, and Reform is the best new deal of all. Like then, relief and recovery came after a series of reforms; so, let’s begin with God’s reforms as well.

With that, let’s open our Bibles once more to the Gospel according to Matthew 20:1–16. For our benefit and that of our listening audience, let’s read the Gospel one more time. READ MATTHEW 20:1–16.


Now, nowhere in this passage do we find the word reform. However, the way the vineyard owner —God in this case —does things is with a huge reformation. He institutes a new deal; a new economic model of grace, versus the former economic model of fairness. We can see this in a couple of ways.

In this parable, the landowner agrees with each laborer to pay them each one denarius, the equivalent to one day’s wage today. There’s two nuances to this: first, it didn’t matter who had what education level, or what their social status was — whether the workers were doctors, managers, or ditch diggers. All were considered the same, and all were offered the same wage.

Anyway, if that’ weren’t radical enough, God’s ways of doing things get far more radical than that. Not only were all workers paid the same amount, God paid them each the same total, daily wage — despite the number of hours they worked. Of course, those who worked the longest number of hours objected. They decried, “That’s not fair!”

But ya know, fairness — in the way we generally think about it — is kind of a human ideal, based upon God’s notion of equality. St. Paul wrote, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality” (2 Co 8:13).

We should want to treat others with equality and fairness. In that, God treats us equally, but he doesn’t treat us according to human fairness. Fairness, while we think means grace, isn’t grace at all. For if God were truly fair with us all, he’d give us all what we deserve.

This is where God’s radical reforms come in. God looks upon us with grace, according to our adoption as sons and daughters into his family, as Paul mentioned to the church in Galatia.

Paul said, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:26–29). He continued….

“What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Ga 4:1–5).

That last little bit speaks of God’s radical reform. God’s radical reforms are defined by and were enacted when Jesus Christ was willing led to the Cross of Calvary, and died upon his cross for all our sins. ------ PAUSE ------ Had God been fair, he would not have sent Jesus to have died for our sins. If God were fair, he’d judge us all according to all our thoughts, all our actions and lack of actions, and by the ways we’ve obeyed and disobeyed God. If God judged us all fairly, we’d all face the judgment none of us would want to face.

Instead, God’s Word says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (Jn 3:16–17). Jesus is the radical reformation of God, and in him, we can all find the relief they we seek, and then move from there into a life of continual recovery. Okay, with that in mind, let’s go back to the beginning of the parable.

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