Monday, April 25, 2016

Matthew 20:10-16 (NRSV): Entitlement and God’s Grace

Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 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 the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus instructs his disciples about God’s immeasurable love. The parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20:1-16) is one of Jesus’ lessons that solidifies his teachings on personal faith and God’s generosity.

The parable symbolically presents three primary characters: the landowner/employer (God), the early laborers (Israel), and the late laborers (Gentiles). Jesus points out that God is generous with his love, forgiveness, and grace to all who turn to him in faith. Duration, personal merit, and lineage (all attributes of the Old Covenant) hold no sway under the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. Entitlement to God’s saving grace, which many first-century Jews claimed, is denounced when the landowner pays the last first and gives each laborer the same pay, whether for one hour’s labor or ten.

Jesus is generous to all sinners who turn to him in faith, whether it is when we are ten-years-old or ninety. His love, forgiveness, and mercy are boundless, and no matter what we do to try to merit his love, our efforts for earnings, as is seen in this parable, cannot achieve a higher place in heaven or “more” grace.  All in faith are paid the same, and our reward is revealed in John 3:16-17:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
I pray and hope to always remember God’s loving generosity. I hope, moreover, to appreciate and lovingly welcome the laborer who is last, like me, who deserves the least, but, instead, is given an inestimable amount of God’s love.

May the peace and love of Christ be with you all.