Monday, October 22, 2012
“But many who are first will be last, and the last first. For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ So where evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they murmured against the landlord, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen” (Matthew 19:30 – 20:16).
IDEA: God’s grace confuses us and we want to explain it away.
PURPOSE: To recognize why we should not have a bookkeeping mentality with God.
Do you know of any people who entered the ministry because they weren’t much good at doing anything else?
Do you imagine that some people in Jesus’ day might have given that explanation for His mid-career correction?
He had been part of “Joseph and Sons, Carpenters” in Nazareth when God called Him to preach. If He had continued in business, it might have gone bankrupt.
How do you think many hard-headed business people respond to Jesus’ account of labor-management relations that we find told with His obvious approval in Matthew 19:30-20:16?
I. It’s a simple story, but difficult to understand. What are some of the questions it raises?
It pictures a strange business practice.
Here is the owner of a business paying people who work only one hour the same wage he pays those who work all day. It’s irrational.
The way the workers are paid seems unjust.
Why should those who were hired later be paid the same as those who were hired at the start of the day? Shouldn’t those who worked longer be paid more?
II. Interpreters have attempted to deal with these difficulties in several ways.
Some say that those who started early in the day did not work very well.
The “heat of the day” got to them. They took long coffee breaks and an extended lunch hour. Those who worked the shorter periods worked harder because they didn’t have to handle the heat as long. They did as much work in a shorter period of time.
Others say that the coins in which they were paid were different.
The first group, according to this notion, received a gold denarius; the second group a silver denarius; the third group a bronze denarius.
III. Why do you think that interpreters have come up with these kinds of explanations?
What is the central difficulty in this story?