Matthew 20:1-16: The Kingdom of Heaven is like this… Opening: Romans 11:33-36: O the depth of the riches of both the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became his counselor? Or who has first given to him that it might be paid back to him again? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. Fair. It’s a concept that we all learn early in life. I think that is especially true of those with siblings. This week we saw that Foster knows the concept. We replaced Ella’s toddler bed with a twin size. She kept sleeping half on and half off of her bed. I knew it was time. I wanted her to like the new bed, so I let her choose the paint color and what I was going to paint on it. It won’t come as a surprise that it is dark purple with a light purple princess crown with those fake gems glued onto it and pink flowers with gem centers. It turned out very cute. But someone else was a little jealous. He didn’t actually say, “It’s not fair!,” but he pouted and even screamed. At one point he was acting like he was only one or two. He wouldn’t come in the house unless mommy escorted him in. He wouldn’t eat his ice cream unless mommy sat by him. He wants a Lightning McQueen bed. And he wants it now, not when he gets bigger. He wants two days worth of mommy working on his bed and giving him that attention. It felt very wrong to him that Ella got a new bed painted how she liked, and he didn’t. Have you ever thought that it’s not really fair when people get saved days or even hours before they die? I have. Here I’m devoting my entire life to God, living every day out for Him to the best of my ability. Especially since as a pastor I have extra responsibility. And then these people live it up and then get saved just in time. I’ve always been glad for them, but I’ve also thought that they somehow got away with more. I don’t think like that any more. Actually, I think the opposite way. They are the ones missing out and I feel bad for them and want them to get saved whenever as long as they do at some point. But, I used to think that it wasn’t quite fair. That is what the morning workers were saying. This parable is showing us how much we think like that. The workers who started in the morning were saying: “It’s not fair! He worked only an hour and he gets paid for a whole day? If he gets paid that much, then I should get more. I don’t care what I agreed to. If I had known, I wouldn’t have agreed to that amount.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, God’s kingdom is crazy! But, it is good crazy. God is merciful and kind, forgiving and loving. The way that Jesus tells this parable is really great. He got everyone’s attention, reeled them in and then hit them with the twist. He told about an everyday situation. I read a great summarization of the literary qualities of this parable written by Roger Hahn. I made a few slight changes to the word order, but this is almost exactly what he wrote.
The opening verses of the parable reflect the way of life in Galilee at that time exactly. The listeners would have nodded in agreement at each detail of the parable as Jesus told of the hiring of workers and the agreements that the landowner made with each group. Even the fact that the manager had the job of paying the workers was part of the customs of that time. The familiarity of all these details enticed the listeners into the story. Everything was so familiar that they became emotionally involved in and committed to this story. The first “clue” of the surprise ending came when the landowner ordered the manager to pay first those who had come to work last. The custom was to pay those who had worked all day first so they could go home first since they would be the most tired. Thus, this unusual instruction alerts the listener to pay close attention. When those who had “signed on” at the last hour received a full day’s pay, a denarius, a murmur passed through the crowd of Jesus’ listeners. What would the rest be paid if those who worked only one hour received the full reward? Here we see Jesus’ purpose in having the landowner order the manager to pay those first. Everyone will see and will wonder. Everyone will see and will develop their own expectations of what the rest of the workers should be paid. By constructing the parable so that all the workers are paid the same, Jesus pushes every listener into a response. The nature of the response reveals a great deal about the heart of the listener. Will they rejoice with the workers who received a full day’s pay for one hour’s work or will they grumble with the workers who complained?
It is hard to be so involved in the story and not take a side. Jesus wanted them to react so that they could see what their reaction was, even evaluate their reaction and, hopefully, see how God was different and more loving than we can imagine.
Hahn also wrote, that “verses 13-15 explain the viewpoint of the landowner. He had done no wrong. The workers who worked all day received the denarius for which they had agreed. Everybody else received more, in some cases much more, than they had expected. No one received less than he had expected. As owner, the landowner had the right to be generous with some if he wished. Only the most perverse logic would refuse him that right.”
They couldn’t really argue with him because they had agreed whether they knew all the facts or not, they had agreed. Really, the facts were none of their concern. Jesus wanted to show God’s grace and generosity. He also wanted to answer Peter’s question from Matthew 19:27. Matthew 19:27-30:
Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
God doesn’t care about the how, when or why of people coming into His kingdom. The details do not matter. They are insignificant to Him. He only cares that they come. He wants to see each of us saved. None of us are better than anyone else. He doesn’t judge based on what we deserve, but based on His grace. Does God think any better of Ella because she got saved a year younger than I did when I was a child? No. He only wants to rejoice that there is one more soul saved. One more soul that he loves SO much that He sent his own son to die for her. It is the same with each of us. A.W. Tozer wrote, “Nobody ever got anything from God on the grounds that he deserved it. Haven fallen, man deserves only punishment and death. So if God answers prayer it’s because God is good. From His goodness, His lovingkindness, His good-natured benevolence, God does it! That’s the source of everything.” A.W. Tozer: The Attributes of God, 47. Another interesting detail of this parable is that the landowner continued to go out and search for workers. Did he really need workers for that last hour? We don’t know what Jesus was thinking. Maybe the landowner would have needed to get the harvest in that night. But maybe he was just concerned that there were other workers out there that needed to work so that they could feed their families that next day. So, he kept going to look. He wanted to bring all the stray workers in and give them work and pay. He wasn’t belittling them when he asked why they were standing idle. He was more surprised that he hadn’t found them sooner. Again, God is just like that. He searches for us and he sends those of us who are saved out to search for Him, as well. Only God know where each of us is both physically and spiritually. Through the Holy Spirit he works through everyone’s hearts to bring them closer to Him. He comes again and again to us, never giving up. Now that is grace and generosity. We are talking about the God of the universe here. He doesn’t have to do all that for us. We are insignificant in the scheme of things, but we are not insignificant to Him. God’s greatness is a wonderful thing to sit and think about. We will never understand it all. God himself tells us that. Isaiah 55:8, 9 says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Psalm 145:3 says, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” Job 11:7: Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? And Isaiah 40:28 says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.” However, regardless of the fact that we will never fully understand God, we must seek to understand all that we can. Another quote from A.W. Tozer:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.”
–A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1961), 1.
In other words, what we think we know of God is as much as we let God be. We must open up our minds to know more so that we can let God be God. For example, I believe that the reason we see fewer miracles and spiritual gifts is because we expect them less. We need to seek God for them. But if we think that God doesn’t do them anymore, then we aren’t seeking and, therefore, aren’t seeing them. Also, what we know of God is how we show God to the world. The better we know Him, the more accurate we are in that showing. If we do not know God well, we will be showing a poor image of God that may cause others to stray from God instead of to Him. God is a great and wonderful I am hoping my dear hubby can find an awesome video of this song to use during the service. “Indescribable” by Laura Story and Jesse Reeves
Indescribable! Uncontainable! You place the stars in the sky, And You know them by name; You are amazing, God! All powerful! Untameable! Awestruck, we fall to our knees As we humbly proclaim: You are amazing, God! Incomparable! Unchangeable! You see the depths of my heart And You love me the same; You are amazing, God!
Sources Used: http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1527 http://www.pastorjeff.com/TozerPtoZ.html http://www.crivoice.org/biblestudy/bbmatt15.html http://www.biblegateway.com http://ryanedwinpaulson.blogspot.com/2008/04/w-tozer-quote.html http://www.westarkchurchofchrist.org/chadwell/1996/121596am.htm