Tuesday, October 23, 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 when 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: Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
PURPOSE: To understand that God deals with us very differently from the way we deal with each other.
Suppose God appointed you to a committee to set up a reward system for Christians. How would you go about it?
What Christians would get the greatest rewards? What factors would you weigh in making that decision?
I. Listen to a principle of operation that Jesus gives in Matthew 19:30 and again in Matthew 20:16: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
What do you think that means?
In your committee work, would it ever have occurred to you to make that a principle? Why not?
II. Jesus states that principle at the beginning and the end of a parable. This tells us that the parable is designed to clarify the principle.
READ Matthew 20:1-16
Do you think the passage was intended to give us Jesus’ instructions on how to run a Christian business?
Imagine trying to operate a modem business on the basis of paying the workers who had punched in at 9:00 a.m., noon, 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. the same amount of money. You would have chaos.
Why is the parable given?
It’s given to explain this enigmatic statement in Matthew 19:30 and in 20:16.
It’s also given to tell us that God doesn’t do His business the way we do our business.
When you’re through reading this story and hearing that principle, how do you feel?
III. Actually, this story isn’t about business practices. It’s about God’s grace.
Two things always strike us when we think about God’s grace:
It always seems unfair.
But to people who experience it, it seems a delight.
If you side with the guys who came in at 6:00 a.m., you want to go out on strike. But if you side with the folks that came in at 5:00 p.m., you are delighted.
We see the same problem with the prodigal son and the elder brother: if you side with the elder brother, the set-up looks unfair. If you side with the prodigal, it fills you with delight.