Summary: The complete unfairness of grace...what a concept! We want our reward to be commensurate with our works. And it's tough when it's not!
Passage: Matthew 20:1-16
Intro: Do you remember the story of David and his confrontation with Nathan?
1. David had committed adultery, had husband killed, confronted by the prophet in a unique way.
2. story of man who stole pet lamb to feed guests, …sucked David in…”you are the man”
3. I had only first half of passage read to accomplish somewhat of the same thing.
4. because Matthew is following up the story of the rich man who turned away from Jesus with a parable that probes the same place in our hearts.
5. let’s let him do it, to us, this morning.
6. because this parable can go very deeply.
I The Set Up
1. this would a common sight around the world. Day laborers waiting for work.
PP day laborers at sunrise.
2. v1 sets the stage, sunrise, (6 a.m.) laborers are there to work, landowner is there to hire
3. negotiation takes place, agree on 1 denarius for a day of labor.
Il) in our day, about $50
4. word for “agreed” is very interesting, means “to sound together.”
Il) you know when the orchestra is warming up, everyone playing their own thing. But when conductor raises and then lowers baton, they “sound together”= they are on the same page.
5. so they agreed, and off to work they went. Our hearts are warmed by these early rising hard workers getting a job so they can support their families.
6. v3, 3 hours later, 9:00, he goes to get more laborers.
7. finds some “doing nothing”=word is “work” with an “a”, meaning “not working”
8. offers work, with slight change in pay scale, no set amount given.
9. “pay you whatever is right, the United Farm Workers would not like this arrangement!
10. but the landowner is asking them to trust him to do right, some pro-rated amount assumed, so off they go
11. goes back at noon, and at three, and works the same deal
12. and in all fairness, everyone realizes that there will be less work now, and so less pay.
13. one last group, 5 p.m. for a workday that ends at 6 p.m.
14. notice this in v6. Question asked “why still here?” “No one will hire”
15. I would ask, “where were you at 3?
16. also, question pretty critical in v6
17. NIV translation is great! Sounds like something a frustrated mother (or wife) might say.
18. we might refer to these guys as “bums
19. no offer of $, just “go work”
20. our values are set, “the early bird gets the worm” “hard work is rewarded, laziness is not” etc.
II. The Revealing Reversal.
1. this story is about to be turned on its head, and us along with it.
2. v8, it’s time to pay the workers, and the landowner specifically instructs the foreman to pay the late arrivals first. Why?
3. I believe it was so that everyone could see exactly what was happening, and so increase the tension.
4. the whole group of workers was there when a startling thing happened.
5. everyone expected that these late arrivals would get this.
PP bronze coin in my hand
6. and instead the tinkle of a coin or two, the slap of a coin worth $50
7. no mention of reaction to this, but clearly the values applecart is about to be upset
8. because when they got to the whole day workers, the hard-working early risers, expectations had changed.
9. v10 “they expected to receive more”, and who could blame them?
10. they did the work, the slackers got the full denarius, (12 times what they should have gotten), so we should get 12 denarius!
11. but they got one each, as agreed upon
12. and with us as a chorus behind them, they start to grumble, but their grumbling became a challenge against the landowner.
13. v12, “you have made them equal to us”
14. in other words, you are dishonoring the “works code” that says that my works are worth something, and some are worth more than others.
15. this is alarming, but look back to v1
16. This is what the kingdom of heaven is like. The values are different!
Il) when I was a kid, there were people coming to Christ with terrible stories of drug addiction, promiscuity, etc. And among those of us born Christians (?) there was always a little disquiet over the fact that they had done so little to deserve their salvation. They were “equal to us!!”
III. The Glory of God’s Grace
1. frankly, it gets tougher.
2. the landowner says, “I’m being just”
3. I gave you what we agreed on, but I chose to give these others the same as you.
4. what I gave to you was earned (wages, pay) v14