The Grumbling Workers

grapes on vineyard during daytime

Jesus told a parable of laborers who were hired for a day to work in a vineyard. Jesus started, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1 ESV). The master agreed to hire them for a denarius, which was a typical day’s wage. Then going out at the third hour (9:00 AM) and hired more who were standing in the marketplace. He agreed to pay them “whatever is right.” He continued this at the sixth hour (12:00 PM) and the ninth hour (3:00 PM).

At the eleventh hour (5:00 PM) he found others standing idle and asked them why they were not working. They replied, “Because no one has hired us” (Matthew 20:7). The master hired them and they worked for an hour. In the evening, the master told his foreman to pay their wages, “beginning with the last, up to the first.” As the wages were paid out, the first were angry to learn that the last people hired received a denarius, the same amount that they had agreed to work for. “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat,” they bemoaned (vs. 12).

The master was quick to point out that the first agreed to work for a denarius and that he was free to use his own money however he wanted. The master replied, “Or do you begrudge my generosity?” Jesus ends the parable by saying, “So the last will be first, and the first, last” (vs. 16). By comparing the kingdom of heaven to the master, Jesus was demonstrating that God will extend grace to whom he will extend grace. We don’t know what kind of shape the last were in, but one thing we do know is that nobody would hire them. It’s possible they had some deformity or illness that rendered them not hirable. Whatever the case, the master extended grace and generosity to them because of his compassion.

As we equip others to serve, we need to remember that we labor for the Lord because it’s the right thing to do. We don’t do it to receive an earthly reward.

The Steadfast Love of God

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The past several weeks have been very challenging for us with several recent deaths. With every death we are reminded of just how short and precious life is. Each breath we take is truly a gift from God. There is much that we take for granted, there are lots of sins that we commit, and there are decisions we will regret. But God’s love is powerful, and he loves us anyway.

When our beloved friend, deacon, and brother in Christ died this past week, I was honored to be able to read Psalm 86 at the graveside. Bill had a love for both the psalms and music. Before his death he was working on a project to have a composer write sheet music to turn Psalm 86 into an A Cappella arrangement. Psalm 86 was one of Bill’s favorite psalms. It certainly has deeper meaning now, for sure.

Psalm 86 is about pleading for God’s mercy and receiving it because of God’s love: “Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you–you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day” (Psalm 86:1-3 ESV).

In this prayer of David, he recognizes how small he is in the presence of God, and that he is in desperate need of God’s mercy. It is because of God’s steadfast love that David received mercy, and David is giving thanks to God: “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol” (vs. 12-13). It’s important not only that we recognize God’s steadfast love, but that we extend it to others as well.