August 10

Thinking About Others, Part 1

Matthew 20:1-15 For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day…. About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. [Then the landowner went out again at noon, 3pm and 5pm, and did the same thing. When it was time for payment, those working longer expected more, but everyone received the same wage. The ones working longer thought that was unfair.]

But he answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

John 21:20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following…and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You.” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me.”

The verses from Matthew above recount a story that most of us tend to think is about salvation. It could be looked at that way superficially, but it goes against the central core of the gospel if that’s the primary interpretation. Our salvation is not earned, as the wages are in this story. It’s a gift, received through faith by the grace of God. Yes, some folks slip in “under the wire” at the last minute, and we rejoice to hear of them and all deathbed conversions. But if this story is about salvation, then 1) salvation is based upon works, and 2) it’s better not to serve God until right before we die, lest we do all that hard work for the same salvation “package” as those that came in later (as if serving Him were drudgery).

This is about the kingdom of heaven and those who work in it. As the first round of workers should have been happy to get work, and should have been rejoicing in the work all day, those of us serving Him for a long time or since our youth should rejoice in what we’ve received. Just knowing we are loved, and saved, have the Holy Spirit, and are being used by God should be a continuing and growing blessing. When all is said and done, we don’t want justice (as the workers here did). We should be rejoicing in His amazing grace.

There are also a resonant couple of verses that can cut and cleanse if we let them: “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” Can you hear the heart of God here? He wants us to understand that He is a sovereign God who can do what He wants. God is more gracious than we can imagine, and He acts out of wisdom; who are we, as mere humans, to question that?

Jesus’ answer to Peter about “the disciple whom Jesus loved” has the same thought: “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me.” God’s plan for everyone is unique, and to us, full of mystery. We can rejoice that He is wise and knows exactly what He is doing with everyone!

Prayer: Father, forgive me for begrudging others Your blessings and grace. I confess that I don’t know what You’re doing with others, and that my focus should instead be on following You to the best of my ability. Thank You for the grace and mercy I have not deserved, but nevertheless received from You.

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