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Mid-Week with Christ
September 16, 2020

God's Generosity

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Matthew 20:1-16

 
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 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.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”
 

Prayer for the Day

 
Heavenly Father, You show generosity where we so often have only resentment. You desire to see all people repent and be forgiven, not just the ones we think deserve it. Help us to rejoice in the mercy you show to others, and not begrudge your generosity, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Aesop had his talking animals. The brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson had their witches and fairy godmothers. Jesus' illustrations often revolve around masters, shepherds, farmers and vineyards. 

This particular parable finds a master taking on the unusual task of hiring workers himself. He not only goes out at the natural time, early in the morning, but keeps going back to town over and over again. Each time he finds workers without jobs, and hires them. Bear in mind that he returns, each time, to the same village. These workers are from the same place, maybe even the same neighborhood. They aren't strangers to each other.

After a day's work, the master pays the workers, beginning with the last to arrive. Everyone gets a day's wage, enough to feed the family back home. The community will have more full bellies tonight than they would have had without the master's generosity. What a cause for rejoicing!

But rejoicing is not what the master hears. Instead, those who got picked to work first (remember - they were also unemployed!) complain that the ones who were picked last got paid the same as them. The master, surprised at this rather selfish attitude, tries to get them to take a wider view. "Friend, I am doing you no wrong, Did you not agree with me for a [day's wage]?" he explains. "Do you begrudge my generosity?" 

Like so many of Jesus' parables, this one points out God's mercy and contrasts it with our own selfishness. We are focused on small justices - getting what we have coming to us. God is focused on the greater justice - seeing a lost humanity restored to fellowship with him and with each other. But instead of rejoicing in the gift of forgiveness and grace God gives to all, we are tempted to see God as unjust towards those who have been faithful for longer, and seemingly sacrificed more. 

When Christ died on the cross for sin, he didn't say only for the ones who deserve it, but for everyone left waiting for God's grace. While some receive that grace into themselves first thing in the morning, others don't until late in the day. But thanks to God's mercy, everyone receives the same forgiveness, and the same eternal life, in the name of Jesus. 
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