Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH. Thank you for being with me today.
This coming Sunday is the 16th Sunday after Pentecost. Because the Gospel lesson drives the theme for the week, I have begun using the Gospel reading for our first devotional time of the week. This week’s reading is the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, and Jesus will be teaching us something important about how God’s people relate to one another and their status in the kingdom of heaven.
The Reading: Matthew 20:1-16 – I will be reading from the English Standard Version translation.
"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. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' 7 They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, '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.' 13 But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' 16 So the last will be first, and the first last." (Matt. 20:1-16 ESV)
We love to make comparisons don’t we? Maybe you’ve noticed that recently there has been a whole lot of movies from the 1980’s that have been remade. Inevitably, those who have seen both begin to compare and to voice their preferences between the movie made thirty to forty years ago and the modern version. When I was a boy I remember the Cola Wars – a comparison between Coca-cola and Pepsi, done by blind taste test.
Such comparisons are generally harmless and really only speak to personal preference. But there are times that comparison can be damaging; it can lead to jealousy and envy. That is the case in the kingdom of heaven when disciples – those who believe in Jesus and follow him – compare themselves to their fellow disciples.
That is what is at the heart of Jesus’ parable about laborers in the vineyard. Jesus said that when the master went out in the morning he hired his workers promising them a denarius – a standard pay for one day’s work. But then, when evening came, the master ordered that the last one’s hired – those who only worked for an hour – be paid first, and he paid them a denarius as well – the same wage as the people who had worked all day and “born the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” Some worked all day, some work three-quarters, some half, some a quarter, and some only an hour, but they all received the same pay.
All the workers in the vineyard are there because the master called them, just as each of us in in the kingdom of heaven because the Holy Spirit has called us to faith. All the workers in the vineyard are about the master’s work, just as every disciple follows Jesus in the harvest that brings people into the kingdom of heaven. All the workers in the vineyard receive the master’s reward – a denarius – and each of us in the kingdom of heaven rejoice to receive forgiveness, salvation, everlasting life, and resurrection.
Dr. Jeffery Gibbs writes in his commentary on Matthew, “There is no room for self-promotion, no occasion for competition, no basis on which one disciple can say to another, ‘I have no need of you’ or ‘I am more important than you are.’” Each of us is brought into the kingdom of heaven by God’s grace. Each of us receives God’s generous gifts and blessings. Each of us is called to serve the kingdom in our various ways – and it is the kingdom and our Lord Jesus that matter, not our sense of greatness or lowness.
When we make comparisons, too often we can come to feel that we are better than others in the kingdom of heaven – we give more, volunteer more, witness more, attend more, etc. When we make comparisons we can come to think that we’ve been shorted, that God hasn’t treated us according to all that we have done for him. But in the kingdom of heaven the rule is not quid pro quo – that we get what we deserve. In the kingdom of heaven we receive God’s mercy and grace, and when we look at our good works more closely we can see that they flow from the mercy and grace we have received, and that leaves us free to receive God’s blessings with thankful hearts, and it liberates us to rejoice when we see God’s grace and mercy in the lives of others.
Lord Jesus, thank you for making us part of the kingdom of heaven, and that you for sending us into your vineyard to serve you. Lord, you have blessed us in so many ways! Forgive us for the times that we have envied others for their blessings, and forgive us for the times that we have looked down on others finding them to be deficient in our eyes whom you have made your own by your suffering death and resurrection. Help us to know the work that you would put us to and help us to serve you faithfully and thankfully, rejoicing that you are a master who is not merely fair, but is very generous with us. Amen.
Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day.
One of the things we can do to help us meditate on God’s word is to memorize it. This week’s verse comes from our Old Testament lesson this week.
Memory Verse: Isaiah 55:6-7 - "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isa. 55:6-7 ESV)
Would you do me a favor? If you got something out of this devotional time, would you like and/or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do social media? That would help me get the word out, and hopefully help these devotions be a blessing to others.
God bless you!