Because I am generous
Matthew 20:1-28 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ 9 When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 10 When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last.”
17 As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”
24 And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
In the parable of the landowner we see an illustration of both God’s generosity and His justice. There was justice for those who worked the whole day and received what they were promised. There was great compassion and generosity shown to those who only worked for the one hour. They received the same amount as the others. I think if we are honest with ourselves, whether we are liberal or conservative, no matter what name we give ourselves to identify how we believe about social justice and equality, we would have to admit that we would probably respond in much the same way as those who worked the whole day. We often claim to want justice, but that is often that we want others to receive justice, to get what they deserve; for ourselves we usually want God’s mercy and grace rather than justice. Romans 6:23 sums up God’s justice and His grace concerning our lives: The wages of sin is death. That’s justice. That’s what we deserve. The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. That’s God’s generosity, His compassion, His mercy and grace toward us.
There are times, as believers, as those who are following Christ, those who have lived for and served Him for a long time, that we see someone who only recently began to walk with the Lord receive a blessing equal to or even beyond what we receive. We might even complain to God that we should get more than them. We forget what it is that we deserved, what justice would be for us without the generous free gift we were given. Jesus teaches us that: "Whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” (Matthew 13:12) In the parable of talents, in Matthew 25:14-30, more was given to those who worked with and increased what they were given, but to the one who did nothing with what he was given, even what he had was taken from him. If we are dissatisfied with what we are getting from God, if it seems others are receiving more, the first place we should look is not at God, but rather at ourselves. We should examine ourselves to see what we are doing with the gifts God has generously given us. He will not give us more if we are not using what we have been given.
On the other hand it is important to note something about those who were hired later in the day. The text says: And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ None of those who were hired after the first hour were promised what they would be paid. They were only told they would receive what was right. They responded not knowing what they would receive. They were rewarded for responding in faith, not to an agreement, believing that whatever they would receive was more than they had. Although the parable does not say it, I am sure that if the next day came and any waited until the eleventh hour to go out to work, presuming on the generosity of the owner, he would not have rewarded their presumption with his generosity. If they were given any opportunity, they would have received only what they deserved. Likewise, no one should presume on God’s generosity, His mercy and His grace, thinking that they will wait until the eleventh hour to accept God’s offer, His free gift of salvation through the cross of Christ. In this life, none of us know when the eleventh hour may be, or if we will see it. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 says: working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain— for He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”
Jesus came to give us an abundant life. (John 10:10) He also though calls us to follow Him. In today’s text He says: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” …“My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”… “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus; precious Holy Spirit thank You for Your generosity and Your grace, for not giving me what I deserve, but rather for giving me the free gift of salvation through the cross. Thank You also for inviting me to work for You. May I be diligent to rise up early each day to work faithfully for You. May I celebrate with and not despise those who You are blessing with Your great generosity. May I be faithful to follow You, Jesus, giving my life as You gave Yours. It is my desire that at the end of my day here on this earth I will hear the words: ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Amen.