Sermon for 09/20/2020 Proper 20
Psalm 145:1-8; Jonah3:10-4:11; Philippians1:21–30: 13:8-14; Matthew 20:1-16
The Gospel today is about the “Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Jesus talked about the people in the center of the community who were standing around, hoping someone would hire them to work in the vineyards. Early in the morning, the landowner went out early and hired men to work and agreed to pay them a denarius for their labor. About the third hour, he went and hired more, saying he would pay them what is right and they went out to work. He went out about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same as the previous workers. Abut the eleventh hour he went out and found still others, only these he asked, “What have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” They answer him, because no one would hire us.” He then told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.
At this point, most if not all had been hired that day to work in the vineyards of the landowner. I would assume all were glad to be working. However when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.” Those who have been hired about the eleventh hour received their pay, they received a denarious. Those hired earlier, then expected their pay to be higher. Each group received the same pay of a denarious and they all collectively began to grumble, especially those who had worked through the heat of the day. They said, “The men you hired last only worked about an hour, but we bore the burden of the day and received the same pay. The landowner answered, “Friends, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t yo agree to work for a denarious? Take your pay and go. I want to give the men who were 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? So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Jesus assumed people wanted the opportunity to work for wages by which they could support their families. The response tot he parable reveals people expected their wages to be related to the amount of work they did. Jesus applauded the generosity of an employer who gave more than expected. His main point, however, is that God’s grace cannot be earned. It is given freely according to human need.
Beloved, the kingdom of God is a gift to be received and used. God graciously blesses His people. No one earns a greater part of the kingdom than another. God is never in debt to us. Until we humbly admit this and come to God with no demands or expectations, we cannot be part of His kingdom.
Grace is sometimes defined as unmerited favor. God’s grace goes beyond our understanding. It is the very nature of God, who is defined as love, to pour out His love upon His people in a manner and a measure that is both undeserved and unexpected. Why did the landowner give so much to those who had not worked for it? Because he had the resources to do so, and the sovereign right to do it as well. Most of all, he had a loving nature that sought to reach out to all that He could in bestowing blessings upon them. The grace of God does not defraud anyone of anything. No one earns the grace of God. That any of these had a job was an evidence of pure grace from the outset. Each one got al least what he was promised. Most who worked in the vineyard received much more than they expected, much more than they deserved.
Beloved, God’s grace is not bestowed on a merit system basis. God’s grace is given on the basis of overflowing love out of the free and generous heart of Almighty God. Amen