Summary: Helping people to understand the concept of grace
What’s So Amazing About Grace
Before we open our Bibles this morning, I have a couple of questions for you. When does God love you the most? When does God love you the least? Please think about those questions.
Let’s open up our Bibles to Matthew chapter 20. I want to look at a parable. It is a parable that I didn’t like very much when I was young. Maybe you don’t like it much either. Maybe I didn’t like it because it didn’t make too much sense. It’s the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Mathew 20:1-16. I believe most of you are familiar with this parable. Let’s do a quick review. Who is the landowner? The landowner is God. What is this parable trying to teach us? The landowner’s dealing with the workers in his vineyard represents God’s dealing with the human family.
How many of you like this parable? There is a contemporary Jewish version of this story. You might like it better. It goes like this. The workers hired late in the afternoon work very, very hard. They work much harder. And they also have to work under a very hot sun. The employer is impressed with their hard work. So he decides to award them a full day’s wages. How do you like this contemporary Jewish version of the story? We like it better, don’t we? It seems fair. However, Jesus’ version is different. The last group had been idly standing around in the marketplace. This is something only lazy workers would do during the harvest season. The workers do nothing special to distinguish themselves. Eventually, the other workers are shocked by the pay they receive. What employer in his right mind would pay the same amount for one hour’s work as for twelve! This makes no economic sense!
We don’t like this parable. Why don’t we like it? I’ll tell you why. As Christians, when we read this parable we identify with the employees who put in a full day’s work. We like to think of ourselves as responsible workers. We don’t like 11th hour workers. We don’t really like people like the thief on the cross. He came in at the last minute. He walked in at about 11:59, with about 5 seconds left. He labors for 5 seconds. He says, “Lord, I believe.” And Scripture tells us that he was given a ticket into heaven. We don’t like such people who make confessions on their deathbed. Deep down in our hearts, we envy them. We think they were so lucky. We hate people who are luckier than we are. It is no wonder we don’t like this parable. The employer is right. Our hearts are evil, and that’s why we don’t like it.
What is Jesus trying to teach us through this parable which makes very little economic sense? I believe that what Jesus is trying to teach us is something that makes very little sense to us. Do you know what that is? It is grace. Jesus is trying to teach us about grace. Why does grace make very little sense to us? Why is it difficult for us to understand grace? I think it is because we rarely see it. On your way to church this morning, did you see grace?
We live in a very graceless world. Open the newspapers, or go to the internet, or turn on the t.v. and you’ll enter a world marked by wars, violence, economic oppression, religious strife, lawsuits, and family breakdown. Would you like to talk about family breakdown? The good news is this: There will be less family breakdown in the future. The reason is because there will be less families in the future. In The Korean Herald, which came out on March 22, 2002, I read an article about the marriage situation in Korea. The title of the article goes like this: Divorce rate rises to record high while marriages hit new low. There are more people divorcing than ever before. And more young people are planning to live as singles than ever before. Why is this? Could our homes be graceless? Well, it could be. But do you know what is really sad? Our churches are graceless.
Well known Christian author Phillip Yancey wrote a story he heard about in his book The Jesus I Never Knew. It goes like this: A homeless, sick prostitute who was unable to buy food for her 2 year old daughter came to me. Through sobs and tears, she told me that she had been renting out her two year old daughter, to men interested in kinky sex. She made more renting out her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night. She had to do it, she said, to support her own drug habit. I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story. For one thing, it made me legally liable—I’m required to report cases of child abuse. I had no idea what to say to this woman.