Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 25 January 19:
Matthew 20:15 – “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”
How quickly we lose perspective of our utter depravity, our total dependency on God’s mercy and grace, and the wonder of God’s mercy and grace. In our pride, we tend to think God owes us something, we take grace for granted, and start to view it as an entitlement rather than a blessing. In our pride and ingratitude, we start to compare ourselves to others (Matthew 20:24-28) and what God has given us to what God has given others. We start to complain about fairness as if we could bear what we fairly deserve from God.
Today, Jesus tells a parable about day laborers who complain about receiving equal pay for different hours. The early hires were satisfied with what they were to receive until they compared their wages with those who had done less. Only then did they somehow feel mistreated rather than being grateful in their poor state that they had received anything at all and rather than being happy for the good fortune of others. Would have these workers complained if the master (representing God) had given them more than what had been agreed upon? Of course not; they would have rejoiced in their unmerited blessing. But they couldn’t stand the thought of someone else getting an unmerited blessing, so, with a denarius in their hand, they “grumbled” at the master.
Comparison, envy, which is resentment over God giving others something he didn’t give you, and bitterness emanate from a prideful, self-righteous heart that has lost touch with the reality of grace and assumes some sort of merit. This spirit robs people of peace, joy, and contentment and eventually destroys. Jesus will make this point several times in our readings this year, repeating it in different ways because we really need to hear it. Honestly, how do you feel when others easily obtain what you worked so hard to get? How does your response reveal what you think about yourself and about God?
– Philippians 2:3 — Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
– Galatians 6:3-5 — For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
– Romans 12:15 — Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
– Romans 12:3 — For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
– 1 Corinthians 4:7 — For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
– Romans 14:4 — Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
– Luke 17:10 — So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
There is another danger to viewing God’s grace as something earned or as an entitlement and subsequently comparing – some will lose hope altogether. In Jesus’ time (as is still the case in many places today) – day laborers gathered on street corners early in the morning to compete for limited jobs. They were hired early so employers could get a full day out of them. People were hired based on their perceived value. In today’s story, after hiring day laborers early in the morning, the master goes back out to the streets four more times throughout the day to hire more workers. Those who remained on the streets had no doubt felt the sting of rejection and the burden of shame. In the eyes of others and compared to others, they simply were not good enough. However, on the eleventh hour, the master goes to the few who represented the bottom of the barrel and said, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ To these few who were now just standing there, the master communicates value. And much to the dismay of others, the master considers them of equal value to all others.
God’s grace is a gift that can’t be earned, not based on any merit. There can be no boasting or comparison in God’s grace. It is never too late to receive God’s grace, and God administers His grace to all who are willing to “go into the vineyard too” (Matthew 20:7) — “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15:1) All the laborers receive more than they deserve and all that they need. If you have received God’s grace, display God’s grace to others, pray that others will receive God’s grace, and rejoice with those who do.
– Matthew 20:16 — So the last will be first, and the first last.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 Jan 19: Considering today’s readings, recommit to living in God’s grace by loving God more and more and loving others more and more, having peace and giving peace.