Now, before we dive into our lesson for today, I did I was at the grocery store yesterday and I ran across something that I usually only see or hear about much on Easter. It’s what I want to share with you one of my favorite things. Starburst jelly beans. These are incredible. Are you with me? Yes, they’re just so good. I love this Candy. I usually don’t like lots of different candy, especially as I get older. It’s not really good for my teeth, but every Easter I’m all in on Starburst jelly beans.
One hundred percent. I was really encouraged to find these yesterday in the candy aisle of my local Wal-Mart. And I’m in a generous mood today. And what I’d like to do is I want to, with the help of Anita Price and Jenn Poole, they are my investigators and I’ve consulted with them. I had them do some research. I want to give this away to a very special person today, someone who’s very deserving. And I asked Jenn I asked Anita when I arrived, tell me who was one of the first people to arrive this morning.
And hopefully this is a person as well that’s one of the first people to arrive every Sunday morning. And I could have given it to so many people. And I don’t know how we got this exactly right today, but I know this person is just invaluable and always is here early. Yes, I heard the name out there. My favorite jelly beans go to Phil Mango. Khalid can you give this to Phil?
Phil, thank you for all you do. My generosity to you and I coudve given it to a lot of people today. He’s feisty, and he’s slightly opinionated, but he’s invaluable. And we love you, but that’s not all. I bought a second bag yesterday. A second bag, I have one more bag of my favorite jelly beans. These are so good, let me tell you, cherry, orange, strawberry, lemon, green apple and grape. Good stuff. Wonderful jelly beans. So I have one more bag. And what I’m going to do is I want to give these jelly beans away to the last person to arrive.
And Jenn and Aneda know who this is, and I’m not going to embarrass this person. That’s not the point of this. I don’t know who it is. This person may run late every week. I don’t know. Maybe they have a good reason. They were the last person. But let me tell you, if you get this later, you know, tuck it, you know, somewhere far away, No one will give you a hard time.
But hopefully after this lesson, they won’t give you a hard time. But I’m grateful for you that you were the last person. I didn’t buy- I’m sitting there and I was like man, should I buy a third bag for me. I almost did, but I want you to think about it a bit. If if you were the first to arrive here today, if you’re Phil Mangot or you’re Richard Martin, or one of the ushers or one of the singers, OK, you got to be thinking, OK, Marcus just gave away those jelly beans.
OK, I know Phil comes a lot, but he just gave them away to the last person. You know, if you’re one of the first to come early to church each week to serve or just imagine if you’re the first to show up at your job every day or if you’re the first one to do your chores at home. And then you get this special reward for all of your hard work, but then the person who was the last to arrive, the person who was the last to do the hard work, then receives the same reward or the same money bonus, as you.
How do you feel? You feel a good up at church right now? I’m talking about tomorrow when this happens. Right. How do you feel? I know that this happened with chores and allowance in our household. We could have a mutiny on our hands. This is scandalous. This is reckless. Equal rewards and unequal generosity.
So I asked you in that scenario, even today, who’s the most deserving of my generosity? When it comes to the jelly beans, who do you think is most deserving of my generosity? Think about it. Is it the first or is it the last? Let’s find out how Jesus would answer this question. Please turn with me Matthew Chapter 20. Who’s the most deserving? You know this month our theme is one God. And this comes from the seven sacred ones of Ephesians Chapter four versus four six.
Three weeks ago with Tyler, we studied out of freedom that we have in our relationship with God in Christ. Two weeks ago, we discovered that knowing God is knowing God’s name. And then last week Eddie took us on a journey of how God is incredibly long suffering with us. So now back to our question for today. Who’s the most deserving of generosity? Is it the person who works the longest and works the hardest, or is it the person who shows up at the last minute?
Let’s see what Jesus says about God’s generosity here in Matthew twenty verse one. I’m going to be reading from the new living translation. Matthew twenty verse one, Jesus says, The Kingdom of Heaven is like the land owner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed he agreed to pay the normal daily wage and he sent them out to work. At nine o’clock in the morning or coffee break time, he was passing through the marketplace and he saw some people standing around doing nothing.
So he hired telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard at noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing. Then at five o’clock that afternoon, he was in town again and he saw some more people standing around and he asked them, why haven’t you been working today? They replied, Because no one hired us. The landowner told them then go out and join the others in my vineyard.
That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid each received a full day’s pay. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more, but they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner. Those people worked only one hour, and yet you paid them equal to us.
You pay them just as much as you pay us to work all day in the scorching heat. And he answered, one of them, friend, I haven’t been unfair. Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as she is against the law for me to do what I want with my money. Should you be jealous? Because I’m kind and generous to others.
So those who are last now will be first then and those who are first will be last. So there you have it. That’s the answer to our question, who’s the most deserving of generosity? In the kingdom of heaven, jesus turns generosity upside down. For the first shall be last in the last shall be first. Equal reward, but unequal generosity. You see, by human standards, by our own instincts, the map of God’s generosity simply does not add up.
God’s grace is scandalous and it is reckless. And that’s the title of today’s lesson, God’s Scandalous Generosity. And many Bibles have a title, this section here as the parable of the workers in the Vineyard. But truth be told, this parable is not really about the workers. This parable is all about the scandalous shocking generosity of God. We said it before and we’ll say it again. There is no God like our God, and it’s not even close.
Our God is just different. First things first, check out versus one and two. You have a picture here of Palestine of a typical vineyard and we see in verses one or two, Jesus introduces us to an extraordinary landowner. And notice here it’s not the site manager, but it’s the owner himself who he goes out and he finds people to hire. First thing in the morning, 6:00 a.m., the landowner, he comes down to help the people. He strikes a deal with those in dire need.
They will work in his vineyard for one day’s wages. That’s God in his kingdom. That’s the gracious owner of the vineyard. He takes all the initiative with us. Then we move on to verses three to five. We have three more times during the day the generous land owner, he’s out hustling. He’s hustling to help people. He finds the hungry. He finds the hopeless day workers. He’s looking for those that are down and out. Then he hires these people on the spot.
By any stretch of the imagination this is not your typical employer. This business owner is highly unusual. Especially because he deeply cares about everyone that’s in need. The next we get to verse six. I’ll read this again at five o’clock that afternoon, the land owner was in town again and he saw some more people standing around and he asked them, why haven’t you been working today? And they replied, Because no one’s hired us yet. Well, the landowner told them then go out and join the others in my vineyard.
Keep in mind, it’s the last hour of the workday, the landowner at this point doesn’t need any more workers. It’s almost quitting time. Who hires people at quitting time? Who does this? Who needs 11th hour workers. Any new employees, any extra payment at this point would be considered excessive, wasteful, foolish, and yet in his compassion to alleviate the pain of the unemployed, this landowner recruits more people to come and enjoy his vineyard.
And not only that we see here, he finds the last in the least desirable, all the potential employees. These are the last ones picked because no one wanted to hire them. But then I guess you could say, well, at least these last minute workers, all things being equal and fair, they only get one twelth of a daily wage, right? Just give them your eight dollars and sixty five cents for this hour of work. Just give them the hourly wage.
Send them home. That’s only fair and equal treatment. Correct? And that’s when this parable takes a stunning turn of events and it’s worth reading one more time. You just can’t make this up. Verse eight, that evening the landowner told the foreman to call the workers and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay they then assumed that they would receive more, but they too were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner. These people only worked one hour and yet you’ve made them equal to us. We’re the people that worked all day in the scorching heat. How can this be? This is a total reversal of conventional wisdom. How could this be? The people that worked 12 hours are paid the same as those who worked only one hour?
That’s crazy. The unions today would be up in arms if this happened in your workplace. Every time I read this, I instinctively relate with the grumbling workers in verse 12. It just doesn’t feel right to me. This is not fair. This is discrimination. This is not right. I’ve worked hard. I’ve worked hard for what I’ve got. This is not generosity. This is foolishness. But here is why it’s vital we listen carefully to Jesus here.
This parable helps us reexamine how far our reactions are still governed by human ideals of what everyone deserves rather than the scandalous generosity of the kingdom of heaven. It helps us see where we’re at, where our mind is at. It recalibrates us. It’s a wake up call to us who are in the kingdom of heaven. But you may say, well, this is enabling. This is a reckless hand-out. This is no way to run a business. But you may be right, but this is not a business.
We’re talking about a kingdom of heaven. Where the first are last and the last will be first. And there’s no room for envy and there’s no room for competition. Now, here’s a reason Jesus may have told this parable in this context. If you look back to Matthew, Chapter 19, this parable comes directly after the encounter with the rich young ruler. And you may know the story very well. The rich young ruler refuses to give up everything to follow Jesus and he walks away sad.
And Jesus lets him go. Then Peter jumps in. All right, because I think Peter’s watching all this is like he says to Jesus, Peter says to Jesus and Matthew nineteen twenty seven and I paraphrase, unlike this guy, we’ve left everything to follow you. So what’s in it for us? And that’s what Peter says, and then Jesus goes on to remind the disciples that he reminds us today as well, what we’ve given up to follow Jesus pales in comparison to all we gain in this lifetime and the next.
If we follow Jesus, the return on that investment is one hundred times over. At least. Plus, a little thing called eternal life. So Jesus here, it’s a segue when he tells this this this parable, it’s on the heels of Peter saying what he did in reaction to the rich young ruler. Jesus warns his disciples against grumbling against this worldly mindset. Jesus wants us to understand God’s upside down generosity that the last will be first and the first will be last.
And yet, just like Peter, we get sucked into the world, we get sucked into ourselves. What’s in it for me in this church? And what will I get and will I get what he or she is getting? Are you with me church? Listen to God’s response to you and me and verse 13. Matthew 20, verse 13, read again, this is God’s response when we’re yet in this mindset of grumbling. And what about me and what am I going to get and what’s my reward here?
Friend, I haven’t been unfair. Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay the last worker the same as you, is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous, because I’m kind of generous to others, so those who are last now will be first then and those who are first, will be last. In verse 15 can also be translated is your eye evil because of this generosity? In other words, are you ungrateful because you’re blinded by self centered envy? You’re blinded to what you received. You have an evil eye as you look at others and you’ve forgotten what you have received. What you’ve been given. When you look at others in this world, are you envious because God is so generous to them? You read your news, you watch TV, you watch sports, you look around. Are you envious because God is so generous to others?
When you look at others in the vineyard with us, are you envious because God is so generous? Where’s my extra compensation? What’s in it for me? And here’s a very dangerous way to think you start to believe you’ve been in the vineyard since early in the morning and then entitlement begins to eat you alive.
Trust me, I know. I go their way too often. I can think look, look at all I’ve given up since I’ve been a Christian, I’m forty eight years old and I don’t own a house. Or, you know, why are people always take shortcuts and they always end up having more than me. I’m working so hard for this church during this pandemic, why are people not showing up for me?
That’s such a satanic worldly way to think, and I must constantly repent. I must go back to the love I had first. I’m the man that God chased down and found at quitting time. God has a reckless love for me. God has given me and continues to give me scandalous generosity that I do not deserve more than I deserve.
So here’s the truth that will keep you centered grateful and happy in the church. This is what I have to do, number one, always remember this, you are an undeserving eleventh hour worker. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you started working for Jesus at six a.m.. Like, I’m part of the six AM crew around in this church long before everyone else. I’m one of the originals, see that leads to entitlement grumbling. What’s in it for me? Attitude.
Stop counting your years of service in the church, God knows he knows these things, he will richly reward you in due time you stop counting be forgetful about that. You’re an 11th hour worker. This will keep you happy in the kingdom. Never, ever forget God searched for you. God found you. God saved you. Just before quitting time. And then secondly, for some, maybe you’re here today, and I’m glad you are, if you feel like you’ve wandered away from God and you’re here, but maybe your heart’s not completely here or or maybe you have not yet made Jesus your Lord in repentance and baptism, I would say here you get to work.
Time is short. Today could be the 11th hour for you. Do not procrastinate. Tomorrow is not guaranteed after the final song set up a Bible study, talk with someone, have that awkward conversation. Say, you know, I just have not been feeling exactly right about me and Jesus. I need to learn what it is to follow Jesus. Let’s talk today. Let’s have lunch. Let’s open the Bible together. Let’s discover how Jesus defines Christianity.
I want that. Get to work. Get into the vineyards. Now is the day. Stop running. From the one that loves you. More than anyone ever could. Then lastly, and I think this is for all of us, go find workers for God’s vineyard. Instead of comparing ourselves to others or biting and devouring one another in our minds, get out of someone else’s head and get in the head of Jesus. All right. Go with God.
Get it to the marketplace. Stop grumbling. Stop being consumed with our rewards of what we have and what we don’t have. Let’s join God as he goes out to find new workers, to find men and women who need Jesus. Let’s go out and give this city hope. Go and find workers for God’s vineyard. Brothers and sisters, friends. Let’s be captivating, let’s be motivated. By the extraordinary generosity of the almighty God. There is no God like our God, and it’s not even close.
Our God is just different. Imagine if we all had this mindset. If we only could just think, and repent and meditate on this thought only by the generosity of God, I am an 11th hour worker. Praise God for that. Imagine if we embrace the scandalous math of God’s amazing grace. Imagine how we would treat one another deep or meaningful relationships. Imagine how our family, friends, neighbors would be drawn into this church. They would see something they want something that’s different.
They would see a people who no longer think, well, what’s in it for me? But instead they would hear us tell them over and over again. Let me share with you just how generous my God has been with me. You can have this, too. And I pray that you envision your work on this earth is done and you stand before the generous land owner and he tells you, job well done, good and faithful servant. Come take your inheritance.
It’s been waiting for you. The kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. Have you ever felt like you were last? Now your first.