Monday, December 17, 2012

The Parable of the Vineyard Workers, Part 24 of 28

TEXT: "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: We may approve of grace when it is given to us, but disapprove of it when it is given to others.

PURPOSE: To help listeners understand the inconsistency of our attitude toward grace.

Listen to a question that is asked in one of Jesus' parables found in Matthew 20:15: "Are you envious because I am generous?"

Who asked the question and why?

I. Do you think that most Christians believe that God is a God of grace?

We sing about grace: "Amazing Grace" is the best-known hymn in the English language.

How do you think people define grace? Do most of them have it right as a definition?

II. Do you think most Christians could give a testimony about God's grace?

What would you imagine the testimony would sound like?

In the story about the vineyard, who would have had the easiest time praising the generosity of the owner? Who would have had the hardest time?

III. We think that grace is a good idea and we approve of it when it happens to us. But does it bother us when it happens to other people?

"Are you envious because I am gracious?"

Do we believe that God can be generous and gracious to other people, even when they are not like us?

Are you upset when it is suggested that people who don't have your lifestyle, your family values, your way of worshiping can also enjoy the grace of God, or does that make you angry?

Is it possible that the question in the story addressed to the workers might be addressed to us? "Are you envious because I am generous?"