Friday, February 05, 2010
Matthew 20 Why God and I Sometimes Disagree
28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Matthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 “Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 “and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ 8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 “And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 “But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 “And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 “saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 ‘Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
This passage should make you upset. It seems so unjust! It seems so unfair. Should the Miscellaneous Workers Union hear of this… there’ll be trouble! Do you think it's fair for the fellow who works for twelve hours, all the day long in the hot sun and the heat of the day, and he gets the same wage as the fellow who works from five until six in the evening? Surely the guys who worked hard all day were worth paying more to than the guys who only worked one hour.
But God is concerned about injustice.
James 5:1 Come now, you rich people! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you. 2 Your wealth is ruined: your clothes are moth-eaten; 3 your silver and gold are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You stored up treasure in the last days! 4 Look! The pay that you withheld from the workers who reaped your fields cries out, and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. 5 You have lived luxuriously on the land and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned—you have murdered—the righteous man; he does not resist you.
But.. He did make an agreement with the early workers 1 denarii for 1 day (a denarii was 1 days’ wage in those days). They had their contract and the owner of the vineyard fulfilled his part of the contract.
He did have every right to do with his own money whatever he wanted.
If he wanted to give them more who worked less, he was free to do whatever he wanted with his money.
Sometimes we feel like we are serving God for nothing. There seems to be no blessing in it, not reward, the pay is bad, and people don’t respect you.
Its like Peter.. Matt 19: 27 Then Peter responded to Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You. So what will there be for us?” …
30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
The Lord is having a shot at Peter’s attitude.
What was wrong with Peter’s attitude? Wasn’t it correct? “Lord we have left everything for you..”
Its Peter’s attitude to his self sacrifice that is the problem.
How are you gonna feel Peter when..Matthew 20
Its not what you think Peter… the rewards are gonna be different. You’re self centred sacrifices don’t count. And someone else will get the reward.
It’s the same problem expressed a little later in Matthew 20. Servant leadership. The way up is down!
Lord look at how I am a servant!!! Yeah you sure are and that attitude makes the Lord sick..
You are still trying to be first. You are gonna wind up last Peter!! Matthew 20: “Promise,” she said to Him, “that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and the other on Your left, in Your kingdom.”
22 But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cupthat I am about to drink?”“We are able,” they said to Him.
23 He told them, “You will indeed drink My cup.But to sit at My right and left is not Mine to give; instead, it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” …. When the 10 [disciples]heard this, they became indignant with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave;
The real problem deep at heart is envy. Have you ever heard the saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side?" It seems these days that every time I turn around someone is complaining because "someone else got something that they didn’t deserve!" Or, someone didn’t get what they did deserve.
It seems that all too often, we forget to be thankful for what we do have because we are so preoccupied trying to get what everybody else has! But let's face it, we all get envious once in a while.
The neighbour shows up one evening with a brand new Lexus, and as he is parking this vehicle in his driveway, you feel just a twinge of jealousy. Or a relative builds a new home with a swimming pool and boat dock. It's hard not to feel a little bit envious. Perhaps your friend is graduating from university with great prospects for an interesting career, and you look at them and wish you had chosen a better course for your life.
Envy sometimes comes in the form of "why me" syndrome.
Why does everybody else get all the breaks in life?
Why does everybody else get to be healthy while I have to fight this awful disease?
How come everybody else seems to be making enough to live on?
How come everybody else’s kids turned out O.K?
How come nobody else hates their job?
The problem of envy has been an issue since the beginning of time. Adam and Eve were the first couple to live on this earth, and the first of humankind to sin. But you know what caused them to sin in the first place?
It was envy. Satan lured them into sin by appealing to their envy. He said, 'If you eat of the fruit of tree which God forbade you to do, you will become just like God.'
Back in the 1984 Olympics, a woman named Mary Decker was running her race, leading the pack coming into the home stretch, and as she was approaching the finish line, she turned to look over her shoulder at her competitor, Zola Budd, and she tripped causing her to lose the race, all because she got distracted. Instead of concentrating on what she was to do, she was looking at what everyone else was doing. It cost her the race. In one winter Olympics, Surya Bonaly was skating for France. Surya won the silver medal, but at the awards ceremony, she refused to stand on the podium, because she was so envious of the other skater who won gold!
Envy - distracts us from our life purpose
“So the last will be first, and the first last.”
This binds these two chapters together. It’s about our attitude to service.
This parable is not about salvation: All are saved by grace.
It’s not about rewards in heaven: there are rewards in heaven: 1 Corinthians 3: 9 For we are God’s co-workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to God’s grace that was given to me, as a skilled master builder I have laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it, 11 because no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid—that is, Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.
2 Cor 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad.
But it does have a lot to say about attitude. That is how these passages fit together.
I was working on my car awhile ago… fearsome thought that, I came to that one screw he had to get loose, and the more I worked to loosen that screw, the tighter it seemed to get. A neighbour came over and watched for a few minutes. He went back over the road to his tool box and bought over one of those thingies where you lean on it and it either does a screw up, or if you put it in reverse, undoes a screw. He very quietly and with a little bit of humour said, “its got a reverse thread on it!” As if that meant anything to me! “You have to tighten or loosen it going in the opposite direction.” I replied "It took me forty years to find out how screws work, and now they change the rules?”
"The first will be last."
President Lyndon Johnson used to tell about an old hound dog that liked to lie on the front porch, baying plaintively. "What's the matter with that hound? asked a visitor. "He's laying on a cockleburr," said the farmer. "Why don't he git up?" "Cause he'd druther howl." That little story rings true because there's a little hound dog in all of us. There are times - we all have them - when we're laying on a cockleburr and if the truth were told we'd druther howl than get up and do something about it.
God owes us nothing. He does not owe us happiness; he does not owe us success; he does not owe us the good things of life. He has the right to do what he pleases with us, even though it may not please us. But the amazing thing is, that, though he does not owe us anything, he deals with us so graciously. He delights to give, He is willing to bestow honor and blessing and glory on us, Yet somehow we still feel that God owes us something. I have discovered that this is the attitude that disqualifies us from blessing. Because God owes us nothing, He is not in our debt, He has the right to do with us as he pleases.
“What about me?” That’s what we say! “What about me?”
“we have left everything and followed you, what then shall we have? “In other words, in contrast with the rich young ruler, who went back to his wealth and turned his back on you, we have turned our backs on our homes, positions, prestige, business, and are following you. What shall we have? What will we get out of this? What will accrue to our benefit because we have done this? What about me? Now this is the attitude that disqualifies. In a display of grace, the Lord answered Peter’s question directly, and he assured him that he would be rewarded. Matthew 19: Jesus said to them, “I assure you: In the Messianic Age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of My name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life.
Then he moves to correct Peter’s attitude in these twice repeated words, “The first shall be last, and the last first,” i.e. “Many of you who think that you are first will go to the end of the line. And many of you who are last, at least in terms of human estimate, will be first.” And then he relates the parable which is a rebuke of the attitude that will disqualify us.
1. Remember God IS Sovereign
We are dealing here, as Paul says, with One who “accomplishes all things according to the purpose of his will..” He does not ask advice from the workers; he does not check out His plans with them; He does not submit them for approval. He is sovereign. It does say that He made an agreement with these first men, but the force of the word is, He agreed to give them what was right (because a denarius a day was the accepted wage)and they agreed with him. They came to a meeting of minds that this was an equitable payment for the day. It was all on His initiative. He set the wage; He set the time of day when they would go to work, the particular place in the field where they would be placed. He sent some out to bear the heat and the burden of working throughout the entire day. Others were relieved of that heavier responsibility, and had a less difficult place of service.
God has that right today. He has the responsibility of ordering the world and his servants. Therefore, He is going to put us where we can be most effective to him. The potter has the right over the clay. He is deploying people to His advantage, not to ours. And He does not even ask our advice. Now doesn’t that hurt our sense of propriety that God has not asked us where we want to be, or the particular circumstances in which we choose to serve Him? Some of us have the privilege of serving God in a home, where we are secure, and where there is love and acceptance and peace. But not everyone has that privilege. Some are called of God to be in difficult home situations. Does God have the right to put us there? Can we argue with him about that? Some of us are called upon to work in businesses where there is harmony and a feeling of comradeship and acceptance of our Christian position. In other cases, men are called to work where they are constantly under fire. Their relationship to Christ is always under attack. But doesn’t God have the right to put men there, if He chooses? Some of us have health, but others do not. Yet doesn’t God have that right? God is Sovereign. He will do as it pleases Him. We can’t argue; we can’t complain; we can’t murmur as these men did in the parable.
Not only is God Sovereign (and this, by the way, is substantiated al] through the Scriptures), he is also just. He does what is right. We can’t accuse Him of playing favorites. He always settles His accounts. Now He may not do it when we think he should, or as he should, but He always settles accounts. The Scriptures say, “Will not the judge of all the world do right?” Hebrews says. “God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the low which you showed for his sake in serving the saints. He will certainly reward faithful service and life. But again, this is not a debt that God owes, it is because He is gracious.
2. Remember To Forget
The Lord speaks of these men in terms of five classes, or working orders: one group who went out early in the morning, at six o’clock; another group that he called at 9a.m., a third at noon; another group at three in the afternoon; and then this final group who went out at five o’clock, at the eleventh hour. At six o’clock the working day ended and the men came to the husbandman to be paid the day’s wages. They are paid the same wage. It is significant that as the Lord told the parable he began with those who came at the eleventh hour and paid them first. If he had paid those who came at six o’clock first, there would not have been a parable. They would have received their wages and gone home. They would have received the wage they agreed upon and they would never have known what the others received. But the Lord deliberately stated the parable in this way to highlight the attitude of these people. They truly had served in a more difficult place, had borne the heat of the day, but they received no more than the others because God owed them no more. He was not in their debt. Their attitude is obvious from the response of these men. For one thing, they were preoccupied with themselves. They had a little ledger in which they kept account of all that they had been doing throughout the day. They also had another ledger in which they had entered records of what everybody else had done. And on the basis of comparison they reckoned that they had more coming. The householder wasn’t fair. He had dealt with them harshly. They didn’t get their rights; they didn’t get what they deserved. This is the attitude that disqualifies us from God’s blessing, and is the attitude that God wants to root out.
Remember don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. We have this temptation to sit down and credit to our account the things we have done for God this week, and thereby put him in our debt. But we must not do that. There is an interesting parable in Luke 17:7, The Lord says to his disciples,
Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, “Come at once and sit down at table?” Will he not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink?” Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”
There were terrible consequences in their life, the same consequences that befall us when we are consumed by thinking such as this: The first is that they were robbed of their joy. They began to complain and storm about, stamp their feet, and demand their rights. Sound familiar, doesn’t it? And this, in the face of the command that we are to do all things without murmuring or complaining, that we maybe blameless and innocent children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world.
The second consequence of this attitude is that it makes us resentful of others, and eventually it becomes resentment directed toward God. We see other Christians receiving good things, we take that little ledger out and note that other people have some of the things of which we have been deprived. Some haven’t endured quite what we’ve endured. They haven’t given up nearly as much as we’ve given up, and look what God has given them. And so we get resentful, and we sulk. It all springs out of this attitude that God owes us something special. God is not in our debt; we have simply done the thing for which we are basically responsible as servants-nothing more.
Why do you serve the Lord? If you serve the Lord on terms you will be disappointed.
If you serve the Lord for Reward of wages in this life, you’ll be disappointed.
There will always be someone doing better than you.
If you serve the Lord for Reward of recognition, you will be disappointed.
There should be no envy among the workers.
Remember Peter's question. Matt. 19:27
No doubt, it was easy for Peter, as well as all faithful disciples, to think, "We have done more than others; therefore, we are better than others." Or, "We have done more than others; therefore, God owes us more than others."
“But drops of grief can ne’er repay The debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away, ‘Tis all that I can do.”
3. Resist comparing yourself with others.
Keep focussed on the Lord don’t worry about other people.
We need to resist envy. Resist comparing yourself with others. In 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul says, "We dare not classify or compare ourselves. It is not wise."
Comparing is where envy starts. When we compare ourselves to others, one of two things is likely to happen.
Either you’ll find someone else who’s doing a better job then you and you’ll get discouraged, OR
You’ll find someone who you are doing a better job than, and you’ll get puffed up with pride. Either way, you’re dead in the water, and the Bible says don’t do it. Don’t compare!
Galatians 6:4 But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else. For each person will have to carry his own load.
Instead of living our lives by comparison, we need to learn how to recognize our own uniqueness.
God made you exactly the way He wanted you, and nobody will ever be just like you!
Psalm 139:13 says, "God designed you (specifically designed you) in your mother's womb." So, you have Designer genes! Before you were born, God knew how you would look. He knew what gifts you would have. He knew the struggles you would face, and the joys you would celebrate. God not only planned out what you were going to be, He planned out your whole life. He has a customized life plan for you! And everything He put into that plan is specifically designed for you. Every part of your life has a purpose, even the pain. God knows even your pain, and yet He has a plan to use even that! When you understand that fact, that God designed your life exactly the way He wanted it, doesn’t it seem foolish to envy others?
Ecclesiastes 6:9 Better what the eyes see than wandering desire. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Paul said, 'I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances life brings.'
We need to learn to respond to others in love. Why? 1 Corinthians 14:4 says "Love does not envy." Love is the opposite of envy. You can’t love someone and envy them at the same time.
4. Focus on Your Purpose
Matthew 20:25-28 HE CAME TO SERVE THE HELPLESS Jesus came to suffer. Jesus came to save. Jesus came to be our substitute. Jesus came to show us how to live. Jesus came to serve us.
25 But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”
“So the last will be first, and the first last.” 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
“whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,” How can you be like that?
There's a story about a fellow who was employed by a duke and duchess in Europe. "James," said the duchess to the employee, "how long have you been with us?" "About thirty years," he replied. "According to my records," said the duchess, "you were employed to look after the dog." "Yes, Ma'am," James replied. The duchess said, "James, that dog died twenty years ago." James said, "Yes, ma'am; what would want me to do next?"
In God's economy, pride is an attitude that He abhors. The proud person congratulates himself for his accomplishments—for being who he is. Here are some errors of self-exaltation:
Pride overestimates self. Self-exaltation causes a person to ascribe to himself an importance and reputation which he knows is false but which, nevertheless, he wants others to accept. Vainglory wants people to notice, admire, flatter. High heels were invented by King Louis XIV of France, who, shorter than most men, ordered shoes made with heels that added several spurious inches to his height.
Pride leads people to strut cockily across the pages of history, seeing self as accomplishing great things because of "my initiative, my ingenuity, my industry," often openly trumpeting their own praises. But Proverbs 27:2 says, "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips."
Pride looks down on others. C.S. Lewis suggested that each person's pride is in competition with everyone else's pride. Delight comes not so much from being smart, wealthy, or good-looking, but from having more of it than your neighbour. When a person is loaded with money, the tendency is to look down on those with less. But God hates "a proud look" (Prov. 6:17). Auto entrepreneur John Z. DeLorean, reflecting on the failure of his sports car company, a cocaine conspiracy trial, and divorce from his model wife, said: "I believe I deserve what happened to me. The deadliest sin is pride. I was an arrogant egomaniac. I needed this, as difficult as it was, to get my perspective back" (Rockland County Journal Nexus, 9/21/85).