Mat 20:1 "For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. Mat 20:2 He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work. Mat 20:3 "At nine o'clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. Mat 20:4 So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. Mat 20:5 So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o'clock he did the same thing. Mat 20:6 "At five o'clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, 'Why haven't you been working today?' Mat 20:7 "They replied, 'Because no one hired us.' "The landowner told them, 'Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.' Mat 20:8 "That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. Mat 20:9 When those hired at five o'clock were paid, each received a full day's wage. Mat 20:10 When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day's wage. Mat 20:11 When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, Mat 20:12 'Those people worked only one hour, and yet you've paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.' Mat 20:13 "He answered one of them, 'Friend, I haven't been unfair! Didn't you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Mat 20:14 Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Mat 20:15 Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?' Mat 20:16 "So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last." [NLT]
Who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? What will we get?
These are the two questions posed by the disciples that lead to Jesus telling another parable to illustrate who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. We might be tempted to even question the disciples, thinking "what a bunch of blockheads". They still didn't get that the first should be last and the last shall be first? But consider the shift in thinking that is being asked of them. This is a complete 180. Jesus is not only using parables but He is living the truth in front of their eyes. He is eating with sinners and touching the leper. He is loving and caring for the lowly and downtrodden, and rebuking the self righteous. But this is no easy lesson for any of us to learn.
I personally am starting to understand this only on the surface myself. I am amazed at how these parables bring out the concept in such a clear way - but seeing it is not living it. We need to not only learn it as knowledge but we need to allow Jesus to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit and change us into "the last". No small task for sure...
For now, we will move on with tackling this parable. Let's see what happens when we take just one point out of the many made in the story and seek to understand what it means.
In the parable we see that each group of workers receives the same reward. The amount of work that they do has no influence on the size of the reward.
Is this fair? What is our human concept of fairness all about? How many times have you heard these types of statements?
"Everyone must pay their fair share" "You get what you deserve" "You get out of life, what you put into it." "The Lord helps those who help themselves." "I have to do what is best for me." "Equal pay for equal work."
The concept of "fairness" is ingrained in us. As children, when we fought with our siblings, how often did you hear this phrase, "That's not fair!" What was, and is always, the motivating factor in these statements? Self.
Our system of law is based on fairness
Often we equate fairness with justice. Our system of laws seeks to determine what is just and fair when handing out punishment for crime. For instance, a child molester may receive a lesser sentence than a murderer. A liar may not receive a punishment at all (Think Bill Clinton; actually all politicians) while a thief could go to prison for many years. I know that I am mixing good reward with bad reward but in God's eye's are they different? Listen to the words of Jesus...
Rev_22:12"Look, I am coming soon, bringing Myreward with Me to repay all people according to their deeds." [NLT]
Now, if we look at this statement by Jesus from the human perspective of fairness and justice what will we want to conclude?
"What and how much I DO affects how much I am paid."
In this thought we have just confirmed all of the fairness statements above. This is our sinful selfish nature displaying itself and we have no problem going there. It took no effort whatsoever to come to that conclusion. I get what I deserve. I should be paid for the work that I do. These thoughts come to my mind as easily as turning on the water at the sink, but Jesus wants us to look at the Kingdom of Heaven from His perspective.
Does the reward change based on the level of the sin?
Let us consider the Holy Law of God's Character, the Ten Commandments. Is the reward for "bearing false witness" (Lying) the same as for "Thou shalt not murder"? The answer is yes. The reward is the same. Death.
Rom_6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. [NLT]
Rom_3:19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. Rom_3:20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. [NLT]
So, if the negative reward is the same for any sin, wouldn't the positive reward for any level of righteousness be the same. Here's a big question...
What happens to our thought process when we put a value on righteousness?
Let me follow that question with an example of what I mean by it.
John goes out and gives 1,000 dollars to a local homeless shelter. He does this because he wants to earn favor in God's eyes. $1,000 dollars is all that he has earned for the month and he is sure that God will look on him favorably for the greatness of his sacrifice. In fact, he believes with all his heart that God will bless him for doing this good deed and he feels that because of the level of sacrifice it represents he will receive an equal or even greater level of reward.
What is John doing? He is earninghis reward. He is seeking to control the amount that he is paid by the Reward Giver because of the level of his sacrifice. He is in essence trying to take control away from the Reward Giver and control it for himself.
Isa 64:6 We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. [NLT]
So, to answer the original question of what happens when we put a value on righteousness, the answer is that we seek to control it for ourselves. How many times have you heard these types of statements about someone...
"What a nice person." "That person is such a good Christian" "Fred is so generous and kind" "Tom gives more to charity than anyone I know"
Again. By who's standard are those good deeds being measured? By sinful human standards.
Does the reward change based on the level of our righteousness?
Jesus pays the same reward to everyone and that reward is eternal life. There is no greater reward. The standard for receiving it; the price for gaining it was paid by Him. Our good deeds earn us nothing, if we lose the reward earned by Jesus - eternal life. I could spend my whole life working only to help other people, give to the poor, make millions so I could give it all away or any other good deed you can think of, but, if I am not covered by Jesus' righteousness, I will lose eternal life. As our parable states, He gets to decide how we are paid because it is HIS reward. In His infinite wisdom and mercy He chooses to cover us ALL in the same way. We must choose at some point to work for Him, because of what He accomplished. That is the one thing that they all did in the parable, they all agreed to work for the landowner - Jesus.
Dear Reader. Lean on Jesus. His righteous life is the only righteous life ever lived on this sinful planet that is acceptable to God. Jesus took that sinless life, He gave it on the cross, and He is offering it to you as your life. If you accept His Grace, God sees you as justified and reconciled to Him. Do not lean on your own understanding. Give your life to Him today and ask Him to come into your mind through the Holy Spirit. He will do this because He has promised to.
Dear Father in Heaven,
Today I PRAISE You for what You accomplished on the cross through Your Son Jesus Christ. By faith I accept that You are willing to see Jesus' life when You look at me. I accept that Jesus did it all and that because of Him and what He did for me I am no longer condemned by my sin. I ask You for the mind of Christ to come into me today through the Holy Spirit. I believe that it has, because You said so.
Rom_5:5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. [NLT]
Please be with my family and Your church and keep them all safe and well. Be with Barry and Claudia. Keep them safe and help them as they struggle with big choices in their lives. Help them to see and do Your Will. I lift my prayer list up to You this morning, please Lord, I ask for your healing hand in each situation and I trust that Your Will will be done.
Please continue to work with me and change my heart. I love You Lord. Amen.