Psalm 145 : 1-8
New International Version
A psalm of praise. Of David.
1 I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4 One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty--
and I will meditate on your wonderful works
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works--
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
Philippians 1 : 21-30
New International Version
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Life Worthy of the Gospel27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[a] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
New International Version
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “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.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Matthew 20: 1-16 Just Standing Around
In many farming communities, migrant day laborers stand on corners from the early hours of the morning, waiting for someone to hire them. Workers who are standing at the corner of a park, the market, or the hardware store in the early afternoon have probably been up since four or five in the morning.
Those who do not get hired by the various local landowners will probably have nothing to eat that night. Often the people who are hired first are the young, strong men--the people who are healthy and in the prime of their lives.
The older folks, the women, and children are the ones who suffer most. They often wait all day long to be hired.
They wait, they hope, they pray that someone will come...needing them... wanting them... with mercy and grace.
Oftentimes they go home empty handed. Or if they are hired toward the middle or end of the day, they certainly won't make enough money to survive.
The social situation in Jesus' day was that many small farmers were being forced off their land because of debt they/incurred to pay Roman taxes. This violated God's command in Leviticus that land could not be taken away from the people who work it, but of course the Romans didn't care about this.
As a result, large pools of unemployed people gathered each morning, hoping to be hired for the day. They were the displaced, unemployed and/or underemployed workers of their day. Those still waiting at five o'clock had little chance of earning enough to buy food for their
families that day.
Yet our Landowner pays even them a full day's wage.
In this parable, about the way things work in the kingdom of heaven, the landowner, of course, represents God. The day laborers waiting in the marketplace to be hired are the lost, the hungry, the broken, the marginalized.
They are the lost sheep. The lost coin. They are the meth addicts. They are the prostitutes. They are the reviled tax collector, and the corrupt businessperson. They are the least, the last, the lost: They are you and me, or our neighbor next door. And they are all waiting for something.
Maybe they are searching for meaning in life. Maybe they are desperate. Maybe they are hungry. Maybe they are thirsty.
But.... the Landowner is out looking for them. He's looking to take them from the marketplace to the vineyard. He's looking to care for them, to have mercy on them.
He has work for them to do. and He will pay them all the same wage--whether they are hired first or last...whether they/are the most hated criminal in the world, or the most venerated saint.
The beginning of this parable is fairly typical of many of Jesus' parables, and it's consistent with ancient farming and modern farming for that matter. The landowner goes out to hire day laborers, and he does so early in the morning.
The laborers agree on a denarion for the day's work.
Then, after this familiar opening scene, the parable becomes increasingly strange.
With each moment the parable starts feeling less like a story about farming, and the characters seem to be less and less the owner of a real vineyard and real farm laborers.
The owner goes back to the marketplace later in the morning and in the mid-afternoon, searches out and finds more unemployed workers.
We are told that they are "standing around the marketplace doing nothing" and that the landowner promises to pay these folks "whatever is right."
This really is very unusual because generally a farm owner would have hired all the laborers he needed early in the morning. But this guy keeps going back and looking for more!!!
As we read the parable, we start to get the sense that the landowner hires these people later in the day not because he needs them, but simply because they are there. In other words--they need him!!!
Then, the story gets even stranger.
The landowner goes back to the marketplace at the end of the day. He finds more laborers "standing around." Now, these would be the laborers that no one else wanted. These would be the real outcasts. The real hard-cases. These would be the paralytics, the blind those with missing limbs, the lepers, the old, the widows and the very young.
"Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?" the landowner asks. "Because no one hired us,' they replied. And so he responded, 'You also go work in my vineyard.'" And Notice that the landowner doesn't even promise to pay them anything.
Then, when the day ends, the landowner not only pays those who were hired last first, he also pays everyone the same wage.
But those who were hired first grumbled against the landowner. They got a little angry, like maybe they might have been taken advantage of.
This parable is kind of similar to the parable of the Prodigal Son. The older son in the story is furious that the younger brother who squandered his inherirance is welcomes home by their father with joy and a great celebration.
It is not fair.
It,s not fair that the older son, who stayed home and did what he was supposed to do, doesn't get morethan what the younger son gets.
An how unjust it is that the landowner doesn't pay those who labored all day more money than those who only worked an hour. How unfair of the landowner to treat all the laborers equally!!! I tell you friends, it all just smacks of socialism!
But... One thing that the persons who were hired earliest in the day miss, is that they were given the great privilege of working much longer than those major outcasts; the folks who had to stand around all that time, being rejected again and again--wasting much of their lives.
To be invited into the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of the Vineyard Owner is the greatest thing that can ever happen to us. As soon as we start working for God, our lives take on meaning. We begin to move towards transformation, and we experience a peace and a joy that the world can never know. And we have life, REAL life, right here and now!!!!
To come in late is to miss all that. How could we ever grumble?
Think of the miserable experiences for those who do not yet know the Lord. Think of the misery, to have to live in this broken, dog-eat-dog world without a personal relationship with God...without hope, without meaning and without ever experiencing the UNCONDITIONAL love
of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
One thing we learn from this parable is that the landowner gives everyone in the story work. Each of the laborers are eventually employed.
They all begin the day in the same situation, but by the time the day is done, those hired early in the morning easily forget where they started.
Life is a marketplace of people waiting for the opportunity to do what they were created to do. Every person has great potential which is waiting to be discovered. And all of the laborers in Jesus' parable were people of great potential as well. And they would have stayed in the marketplace all day if the Landowner had not come and offered them a job.
The Landowner's call--like our call from God--was the beginning of their self-worth and their productivity.
Our only choice is whether to answer the call to work in Goc 's kingdom or to stand idle and waste our lives. And it's not God's will that anyone's life should be wasted, so God extends the invitation repeatedly, searching and seeking out the lost in order to gather in as many people as possible into God's vineyard.
Everyone is equally deserving or undeserving of the opportunity to work, and the reward is equal for all as well.
"I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I am generous?"
The landowner has the right to pay His workers not on the basis of what they themselves have done, but on the basis of His own compassion.
And those of us who worship this kind of God must also imitate His generosity, mercy and love. God has called all of us to go into the marketplace, over and over again, inviting the precious human creatures He loves, saying, 'You also go into the vineyard.'
We serve a God Who's generosity is outrageous!!! We should rejoice and be glad!!!
And friends, we should get to work!!! AMEN
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