(Part 64)


August 19, 2015

Today’s gospel:  Matthew 20:1-16

In today’s gospel about the workers in the vineyard, different workers put in different hours of work but get paid the same wage at the end of the day. This was resented by those who worked longer. “And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner.” (v.11). That seemed natural enough, especially for those who worked 8 hours while some others worked only one hour.

This parable is about those who respond to Jesus’ call, at whatever time in their lives or whatever time they have left in their lives. All who respond will receive the same reward, which is salvation and heaven. Is that unfair? Is that unjust? No, for it is about the generosity and mercy of God who wills all to be saved. God was not unjust to those who worked longer, but rather was just to them while being merciful and generous to those who worked less. “What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?” (v.14b-15a).

Now there are those in Christian service who think like the early workers, that those who do more or have been serving longer should deserve more from God. Even James and John sought positions of honor in the Kingdom, thinking they deserved these because they were the apostles, the inner circle.

But here should be the proper perspective: the work and sacrifices themselves are their own reward. Those who are called earlier, who serve earlier, who serve more, are those who are already truly blessed. Those “who bore the day’s burden and the heat” (v.12b) are those who are truly privileged, being able to do more for the Kingdom of God and bring in a bigger harvest.

Therefore, for those of us who have come into the Kingdom first, for those of us who have been serving for a longer time, for those of us who are already in positions of leadership, we should not think we are better or better deserving of reward than those who have done less or have come later. Such a posture has certain implications.

  • Senior leaders should not begrudge the emergence of junior ones.
  • Those in leadership position should be open and willing to yield to new and less experienced leaders.
  • Those serving much should not disdain those serving less, if both are for the benefit of the community or Church.

Rather, we must always rejoice with each and every conversion. We should work until our last breath to bring in that last person. We should be looking to the privilege of longer and more service. We should not be envious of the blessings of others. “Are you envious because I am generous?” (v.15b). We should look to our Master, not to our co-workers. We must willingly embrace the cross.

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