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Thursday, September 18, 2014

I've been meeting with confirmands and their parents in preparation for their affirmation of baptism in October. During our discussions, one mom mentioned that this was her least favorite parable. I suspect she echoes what most of us feel. "It's just not fair!" we cry. But Jesus, as always, is throwing our sense of fairness out the window. That's what makes this parable so memorable—and annoying!

We are such a rewards-based society that we automatically go there. This isn't a story about rewards but a story about grace. If we start asking ourselves who deserves to be forgiven, we soon are reminded that the answer is no one. No matter how hard we work, we can't be "enough." But that doesn't matter, because Christ was enough for us. In God's kingdom, all are equally prosperous and poor, saint and sinner, manager and minion. We receive exactly what we need, from a God who's notoriously generous and lavish.

Dear Lord, thank you for the work you have put in front of each of us. Help us to do it gladly out of love for you, not out of pride in our efforts. Amen.

Laurie Neill
Family Life Pastor, First Lutheran Church, Fargo, N.D.
Master of Divinity , 2012

Matthew 20:1-16 (NRSV)

1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;
4 and he said to them, "You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went.
5 When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same.
6 And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, "Why are you standing here idle all day?'
7 They said to him, "Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, "You also go into the vineyard.'
8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, "Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.'
9 When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.
10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.
11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner,
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 the usual daily wage?
14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.
15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?'
16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

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This God Pause daily devotion is brought to you by the alumni of Luther Seminary.