October 3-5, 2020
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Matthew 20:1-16
“THAT’S NOT FAIR!”
AKA “Amazing Grace”
1. God’s Grace is Glorious!
2. God’s Grace is Generous!
3. God’s Grace it to be enjoyed, not envied.
Matthew 20:1-16 (EHV) “Indeed the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing to pay the workers a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3He also went out about the third hour and saw others standing unemployed in the marketplace. 4To these he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will give you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6When he went out about the eleventh hour, he found others standing unemployed. He said to them, ‘Why have you stood here all day unemployed?’ 7“They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “He told them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When it was evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last group and ending with the first.’ 9“When those who were hired around the eleventh hour came, they each received a denarius. 10When those who were hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But they each received a denarius too. 11After they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner: 12‘Those who were last worked one hour, and you made them equal to us who have endured the burden of the day and the scorching heat!’ 13“But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not make an agreement with me for a denarius? 14Take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last one hired the same as I also gave to you. 15Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16In the same way, the last will be first, and the first, last.”
You knew it right? As soon as you could tell where Jesus’ teaching story was going you knew what was going to happen. As soon as the ones hired last got paid a denarius you knew what the first hired were going to say. You knew because if you had been one of the first hired you would have said it yourself. So why don’t we get it out of our system right now by saying it together. “That’s not fair!” We all have in us a built in sense of fairness based on what we consider to be right and that’s not necessarily bad or wrong. When someone does something wrong we expect them to be punished. That’s justice. For them not to be does not seem fair. If a classmate cheats on an assignment and gets a good grade and you do it the right way and get a lesser grade. That’s not fair. Aaron Rodgers will get paid $21,460,000 playing for the Packers this season and I couldn’t even make close to that playing 200 seasons for the Christians. That’s not fair when you consider the eternal effect of each or our work. It’s not that our sense of fairness we apply is necessarily wrong, it’s just that it falls short of the glory of God. It’s not amazing grace.
This is what our Lord Jesus teaches us today, that God’s way of dealing with people may seem not fair but it’s really a part of His amazing grace and we would not want it any other way! Because God’s grace is first of all glorious! Context is so important. Why does Jesus tell this story? Here’s what just happened. A very wealthy man asked Jesus how to earn heaven. Jesus told him to obey God’s laws perfectly and to help him see he wasn’t told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. He couldn’t do that so went away sad. Peter and the other disciples were watching and listening and Peter seized on the truth that he and the others had at least outwardly left everything. Their boats and nets, the tax collectors booth. So He said to Jesus, “Look, we have left everything and followed you! What then will we have?” What’s in it for me? So common. Jesus did tell them not to worry, that they would receive all kinds of blessings but went on to say, “Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” And you can’t help but think of how the Jewish people were the first to hear the Good News of a Savior who had been born to them but became last by rejecting, while the Gentiles heard last and so many believed. Or how Judas Iscariot was one of the first to hear the call of Jesus to follow but became last by letting greed push faith aside while a really rotten thief on the cross was one of the last to hear Jesus call and became one of the first after Jesus died to go to heaven.
The point is God’s grace is glorious. Our way of thinking is corrupted by sin. We work on quid pro quo, you get what you pay for, hard work pays off. All of that makes sense to man’s corrupted reason when you apply it person to person but not person to God. Remember what God told us through the prophet Isaiah? “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my plans are higher than your plans.” It is to the glory of God to be the only one to earn salvation and give it away for free to underserving sinners. It is to the glory of God to have the rain fall and sun shine on believer and unbeliever equally. And it is to the glory of God to distribute earthly gifts as he sees fit, to allow an unbeliever to be wealthy and a believer be poor. UHH. That’s not fair! That’s grace. Amazing grace. Beyond us and our way of thinking. Glorious!
And God’s amazing grace is generous. The parable highlighted that aspect of grace. A landowner went out seeking workers. No one applied. No one presented a resume. The landowner sought them. He did it at 6 AM. Again at the 3rd hour, 9 AM, and at noon and at 3 PM and at 5 PM with only one work hour left in the day. God’s grace is generous. Just think of how the workers picked at the 11th hour felt. Nobody wants us. No money for food tomorrow. In swoops the landowner better than Uncle Sam saying, “I want you.” Kids have you ever felt left out? Nobody’s first choice to be on their team. God’s grace does not leave you out or me out. It’s generous. He truly wants everybody. He blesses people physically on earth seemingly in and indiscriminate way to us but it all fits in line with a God whose grace is amazingly generous. It goes beyond the normal, beyond what you would expect. And if God does not seem generous to you, it’s likely a sign you are having trouble appreciating or understanding amazing grace.
You see God’s grace is to be enjoyed and not envied. That was the problem of those hired first. “When those who were hired around the eleventh hour came, they each received a denarius. 10When those who were hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But they each received a denarius too. 11After they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner: 12‘Those who were last worked one hour, and you made them equal to us who have endured the burden of the day and the scorching heat!” You want to say it one more time because we’re really good at it? That’s not fair! But the landowner who is a picture of our glorious God of amazing grace begs to differ. “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not make an agreement with me for a denarius? 14Take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last one hired the same as I also gave to you. 15Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” The first workers wanted it fair by their standard. They heard “ Get outta here! Take what is yours and go.” The first are now last. None of us want to hear Jesus say that to us.
Some heart questions. In this lifetime do you expect to receive blessings from God for living right or do you see yourself as a recipient of God’s grace? Wow is He generous. I don’t deserve that! Do you want God to treat you and all people on your standard of fairness, give me what I’ve earned, or His, give me what Jesus earned? Because if you really don’t want a God of Amazing Grace you’ll force him to say, “Take what is yours and go away from me.” Friends none of us are going to be disappointed when we see the extent of God’s grace, how generous He really is. Enjoy your earthly blessings as gifts of God’s grace. Be happy for others who have more and look forward to what it means that the last will be first.
Speaking of last, last week the very first hymn we sang was “Chief of sinners though I be.” As soon as we started singing it I knew what Pastor Waldschmidt was singing. I knew it even though he was wearing a mask. I didn’t have to see his lips I could see the look in his eyes. “Chief of sinners though I be Pastor Spaude’s worse than me.” I knew he was doing that because I was doing my own. You can guess how it goes. It’s silly pastor humor as we acknowledge how difficult it really is to appreciate that God’s way of dealing with is all grace, all undeserved. That sinful part of us wants us to think in some way or by something we’ve done or who we are we kind of deserve it. That’s not grace. It’s not amazing grace. Amazing Grace is God’s blessing and love poured out because He is good, not because we are. It’s given to the chief of sinners. It saves a wretch like me and when we take that honest look in the mirror of God’s law we wouldn’t want it any other way. Because of Jesus it won’t be. Amen.