Thursday, December 27, 2012

Because They Deserved It

But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ | Matthew 20:13-15
Stop me if you're heard this one before...the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. A story where the master of the house goes out, early in the morning, to offer laborers money to work in his field for the day. The men agree to the price and begin to work. A few hours later the master goes back out and hires more men to help with the harvest. And he does so again and again throughout the day and each time he returns with more men to work in the fields. Finally at the eleventh hour the master goes and gathers the last group of workers to help with the harvest. When the days work was done, he called upon his foremen to pay the workers what they earned.

But this is where the story takes a turn and the plot begins to thicken.

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.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 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.’ | (Matthew 20:8-12)
Did you catch what just happened? That's right, the his generosity...decided to give those men called at the eleventh hour the same pay as those who had agreed to work for the entire day. When those who had worked in the heat all day long saw what the master had given to the men who worked for just one hour, they began to make some assumptions about what they were going to receive. When they were awarded the same payment as those who had worked for just one hour, they began to grumble at the master of the house.

Had the master somehow treated these laborers unfairly? Did he not pay them the wage that they had agreed to at the start of the day? Why then were these men so upset, and why did they grumble about the payment they had received?

To me, the answer is simple. Self-righteousness. These men believed that they deserved something more. They believed that they had "earned" it. They believed that because they had worked in the sun and heat and had labored a full-day, that if the master was going to pay a denarius to those who had worked only one hour, that somehow they deserved more. They were angered by something which they perceived to be unfair. Instead of being grateful for what they had received or the generosity of the master who had provided them a days wage...they instead complained about his injustice.

These men were self-righteous Pharisees, who viewed themselves as having more worth than the other men. They had no desire to rejoice or be glad in the master's generosity and charity. Instead they wanted to stand on their own merits. They wanted to say, at the end of a hard day of work, WE EARNED THIS and WE DESERVE THIS.

So, when the master showed kindness to the other men, they could no longer see the kindness he had also shown to them. Their hearts, which should have been filled with gratitude for what was given to them, were instead filled with contempt for the master's generosity. Their pride and self-righteousness had blinded them to the kindness the master had shown them, and they couldn't recognize the master's charity towards them or their need for it.

And so it is with so many people today. People who look at their lives and the good things they've done. People who are convinced that they are ready to stand before their master as laborers who deserve to be rewarded for the efforts and good deeds they have done in their life. How blinded we are by our own pride. We can't see our master's charity. We don't want to see Christ's work on the cross as God's generosity towards us. Instead, we want to look at our lives and say, WE EARNED THIS, WE DESERVE THIS...WE HAVE SAVED OURSELVES.

How sad is this reality? God, in his generous justice, extends his hand of grace to every one of us through the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus. His law and his gospel show us that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And yet this truth which leads some to repent and embrace the mercy and kindness of a loving God and glorious Savior is the same truth that leads others down the road of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. Only one of these roads will lead to eternal joy. The other road leads to a life of self-righteousness and an eternity filled with contempt for the generous justice of a loving and compassionate Savior.

How do you respond to God's generosity? I pray that it is with humility and gratitude instead of pride and self-righteousness.

For His Glory,


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