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Grace: Grumbling about Generosity Matthew 20:1-16

By Gary Carver
You may not have ever heard that parable in this way. It's a strange story. It really is strange when you think about it. What would the United States Government do with this? What would the labor relations office do with this? What would the unions do with this? What would a good attorney do with this?

Right in the middle of this is the landowner -- peculiar. You know the land owner represents God and shows to us a side and angle to the nature of God. This land owner is unpredictable and generous to a fault. He will do what he will with his favor and with his money because he wishes to do so.

Why did Jesus tell this strange and unusual parable? In Matthew 19 a man came to Jesus. He is called the rich young ruler. He came to Jesus and wanted to be Jesus' disciple. To make a long story short Jesus said, "You will have to sell what you have and give it to the poor, and then come and follow me." The Bible says that he went away sorrowfully. He simply would not do what Jesus asked.

Jesus also says in Matthew 19 that it is more difficult for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to come into Heaven, but with God all things are possible. That just blew the minds of the disciples, and they then asked who could be saved. They felt if you were rich it was because God was honoring you and if you were poor it was because God was punishing you. If a rich man could not get there, who could?

Then Simon Peter said, "Lord, we have given up everything to follow you, and we know we've got a lot coming." Simon was trying to move himself into position, trying to scoot himself up next to Jesus so that when Jesus came into His kingdom he could get all the goodies. He was thinking how he could manipulate and control and get all of those things that come to those who are favored by God. Peter is wanting the choice church, the honorary doctorate, a sign out front that has Reverend in front of his name, that reserved parking place with his name on it, a clergy sign on the front of his automobile where he could go to the hospital and get that convenient clergy parking place, a country club membership. Peter wanted all of those perks and discounts and ministerial advantages. Jesus said that there would be rewards alright and they would be beyond our imagination but they will not be given out the way we think they are going to be given out. Strange story!

Then Jesus tells this parable about some who work one hour and got paid as much as those who worked twelve hours. Now the land owner honored his agreement with those who worked twelve hours. They got exactly what they contracted for. The land owner was generous and kind to those who only worked an hour. He didn't want them to go home empty handed to a hungry family.

Where are you in this parable? I'm sure that probably every single one of us here at some time has been the one-hour worker, and sometimes we have been the twelve-hour worker. There are people who have done so much more than we. What kind of chance do you have in comparison to missionaries? Think of all those years in school, think of having to learn different languages, think of being away from family, think of never getting to see your kids and your grandchildren, think of being in hostile countries with all kinds of crazy diseases. What chance do we have against those kind of people?

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