Text: Matthew 20:1-16
"God just cannot stand it that anyone should be less than what God has created them to be.
"God cannot sit still so long as anyone is on the 'outside' or lost . . . . 'standing idle' in the market place, apart from God, or from God's household.
"So God continually comes into 'the marketplace' of your life . . . calling you . . . inviting you.
"The glorious truth is, that you are in the vineyard, not as a hired laborer, but as the very child of God; as a member of God's own family."
By God's grace, you are called to be a steward; to be a worker together with God, and with one another, "Bringing God's will and purposes to fulfillment. There can be no greater joy than this!"
Give Us What We Deserve . . . Not!
(Welcome to the vineyard)
"For the Kingdome of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and to them he said, "You go into the vineyard, too, and whatever is right I will give you." So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
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?" They said to him, "Because no one has hired us." He said to them, "You go into the vineyard, too."
And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, "Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first."
And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, 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."
But he replied to one of them, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?"
"So the last will be first and the first last."
We begin where Jesus began: - "Now the kingdom of heaven is like . . ." Which makes it perfectly clear.
That this is not just an interesting story about a householder and some hired laborers.
NO! This is God's story . . . and this is Your story, Our story -- yours and mine.
With those very first words he speaks . . . "Now the kingdom of heaven is like . . . :
Jesus is letting us know this is the real, life -- story about one part of our relationship with the only true and living God.
It is the story of you and God together: it is the thrilling truth that you have been invited by God -- "Called", actually, into God's mission:
In the world
To the world, and
For the world.
That invitation . . . that "Call", for some of you, came 'early in the morning' of your life.
For some of you, it came at the third hour, the sixth hour, or the ninth hour of your life.
Indeed . . . it may even be that for some of you, this is The hour when the living God is calling you, inviting you to come and work in God's vineyard.
The real truth is no accident -- for any of you - that you are here this morning.
You are here because God has invited you. You are here because God is calling you . . .
And I want to tell you that that calling from God, that invitation for God
Is the most incredible, the most exciting, the most challenging and satisfying
Call and invitation and experience any human being can ever know.
What a magnificent picture of God we are given here! . . .
Going out early in the morning; going out at the third hour, at the sixth hour, at the ninth hour, and even, at the eleventh hour.
Hear that, please . . . . hear it -- and rejoice!
God just cannot stand it that anyone should be less than what God has created them to be.
God cannot sit still so long as anyone is on the "outside" or lost . . . . 'standing idle' in the market place, apart from God, or from God's household.
So God continually comes into "the marketplace" of your life . . . calling you . . . inviting you.
The glorious truth is, that you are in the vineyard, not as a hired laborer, but as the very child of God; as a member of God's own family.
Ah, but you know that, don't you?
Because every morning, you remember your baptism, and there rings in your ears that rousing welcome
You were given by your brothers and sisters in Christ on that occasion . . .
"We welcome you to the Lord's family, a fellow member of the Body of Christ, a child of the same heavenly Father, and a worker with us in the kingdom of God."
Please note . . . that it is always . . . Always . . . God who is making the first move.
It is God who is coming to those who are standing idle in the marketplace. It is God who comes inviting . . . God who comes calling; God who comes choosing.
We need to hear that . . . and to celebrate that amazing grace of God, whose love is so great that He comes to Us - inviting and choosing.
We need to hear that for another reason, also; - more than once we have heard persons talk about how they are Christian because they made a decision for Christ.
But the real truth is that you and I are Christian, not because We made a decision for Christ, but because Christ made a decision for us!
Jesus: - "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide." John 15:16
Now . . . jumping ahead toward the end of the parable . . . to the point where the people who have been in the vineyard receive the denarius . . . .
Let's talk about that denarius a little bit, and take a note that all who worked in the vineyard were given the same, regardless of the length of time they might have been in the vineyard.
The truth is - the greatest blessing they Could possibly receive had already been Given them . . .
The greatest blessing is to be in the vineyard; the greatest blessing is to be working; the greatest blessing is to be doing . . .
Two reasons for saying that: -
(1) Now they could buy food and clothing, now they could make the mortgage payment, or pay the rent; now they could know the dignity and the good pride of caring for the loved ones the Lord had entrusted to them
(2) The story talks about all those who were standing "idle" in the marketplace, before the householder came and invited them to go into the vineyard.
In both the Greek and Hebrew Languages, the word "idle" and the word "hell" come from the same root word.
Now we can see . . .
It is not so much wages we are given as it is gift; for were it not for the incredible generosity of the Father, we would still be standing "idle" in the market -- place.
There -- "idle" in the market -- place, apart from God, our lives would be absolutely empty and meaningless.
There -- "idle" in the market -- place, apart from God . . . we perish!
We're told that those who were sent into the vineyard early in the morning "grumbled" when they received only a denarius.
"We deserve more! We've spent all day under this hot sun. Give us what we deserve!"
(All minds focused, please)
The truth is, that God Never gives us what we deserve. Instead, God always deals with us according to his loving kindness.
Thank God for that!
Because, if God did give us what we deserve . . . .
One very important truth before we leave this verse: -
God always gives his best to those who leave the choice up to him.
Now, listen to the closing remarks of the householder, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you.
"Am I not allowed to do as I please with what belongs to me, or do you begrudge my generosity?"
There . . . right there; listen to the first part of that question: "Am I not allowed to do as I please with what belongs to me . . . ?
If that were anyone other than God speaking, it would be absolute impudence at its worse!
But it is God speaking and that raises two very intriguing questions: -
Just what does belong to God? And what does God Do with what belongs to him?
Well, what does belong to God?
Psalm 24: "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness of it; the world and all who dwell in it."
And David's prayer, when he is dedicating the offerings the people has given to build a temple: "for everything that is in the heavens and in the earth is Thine, O Lord". . and "for all things come from Thee, and of Thine own have we given thee."
There is a passage from James that sheds some light here, also: - "Every good endowment and every perfect gives comes down from the Father . . . "
Well, those passages certainly answer the question, "What does belong to God? . . .
Everything! . . . 'everything in the heavens and on earth " is God's.
And now comes the interesting and terribly revealing part: - just what does God do with this "everything in heaven and on earth" that is God's?
He starts to give it away, to share it . . . God uses it to give life and to bless someone else.
We read right there in the very first chapters of Genesis, that before the dust of creation had even settled,
God takes some of that dust, fashions you in God's very own image, then breathes into your nostrils the breath of life, and you -- each of you -- becomes a living being.
That's one of the very first things God does with this "everything in heaven and on earth" that is God's:-
Starts to give it away, and to use it, and to share it for the blessing and well0being of others.
What's one of the next things God does with this "everythingin heaven and on earth" that is his?
Once again, the words of the psalmist give us insight : - "The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their meat in due season; you open your hands and satisfy the desires of every living thing."
That's one of the next things God does with this "everything in the heavens and on the earth" that is God's: -
Goes right on giving it away for the blessing and well-being of someone else.
God shares it with you . . . freely gives you everything you need to nourish and strengthen and sustain and bless the life God has given you.
Everything . . . and More!!!
Just listen to what Saint Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:8 . . . "God has provided you with every blessing in abundance, so that you not only have enough of everything you need, but in such abundance that there is enough for sharing with other people."
Wow! That's marvelous!
Not only enough for your every need, but in such abundance . . . don't miss this! . . .
"In such abundance" that you can actually be God -- like, by sharing it with others!
And, then, as the crowning touch, God bestows upon you the honor and the dignity of being stewards
Of this "everything in heaven and on the earth" that is God's.
God takes this "everything in heaven and on earth" that is God's, and places it in your hands as a trust . . .
To administer it
To use it
To care for it, and
To manage it . . .
In partnership with God, and with each other . . .
. . . so that God's good will and desires and purposes for it all may be accomplished.
What an incredible calling!
By God's grace, you are called to be a steward; to be a worker together with God, and with one another,
Bringing God's will and purposes to fulfillment.
There can be no greater joy than this!
For herein is God's name praised and honored and highly exalted.
George Haynes was ordained in 1951 and is currently a mission developer for Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Rockport, TX and is an ELCA Stewardship key leader.