Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Storyteller Week 4

I was in the nursery last week so I missed Neal's message on the Good Samaritan. If you're interested, you can hear it by clicking here. Below is this past week's message notes. It was really good. I would recommend listening to it.

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Matthew 20:1-16

Some worked twelve hours, some nine, some six, some three, and others only one hour yet they all received the same wage.

"Vineyard" was a common metaphor for "the people of Israel" in Jesus' day.

To work for "whatever is right," you have to have a great deal of trust in your employer because you are banking on his generosity.

Who would still be hoping to get hired with only one hour left in the work day? Those who were truly desperate. No work = no food.

Normally, the all-day workers were paid first. In this story, the one hour workers are paid first. If the employer had followed the normal system, the all-day workers would never have known that they were all paid equally.

Instead of lauding the owner's generosity, the all-day workers are furious that they were all paid equally. They, like our society, feel that the harder one works, the longer one's been at work, the more one contributes, the more is expected to be received in comparison to a newbie on the job.

Jesus' intent was to show the hidden sense of entitlement, the feeling of unfairness, and the economy of grace. Grace isn't about counting at all. The story is about who can be forgiven by God and allowed into the kingdom. Everyone is welcome at any time (any point in one's life, young or old).

Performance-based Christianity (all day workers) - we miss out on our need of grace; instead we feel entitled to it. Instead of feeling grateful for being chosen, we feel cheated because others we feel are "less deserving" also receive the same grace.

Grace-based Christianity - relationship based on trust, not a contract; we are overjoyed at the grace we receive, knowing that it is undeserved.

We are often outraged at the abundance of God's grace and the seeming unfairness of it. We often fail to remember that we are just as unworthy of grace as anyone else. Why do we tend to identify with (assume that we are) the workers who were hired first? We are all, in fact, latecomers in the story.

We are envious of God's generosity. He continues to seek out workers for his vineyard, even without benefit to himself.

"God dispenses gifts, not wages...If we were paid deservingly, we would all end up in Hell." Philip Yancey

This message really hit me. I do tend to see the seeming unfairness of the situation rather than the amazing message of grace that it is. I, too, would be outraged to have worked all day and have been paid equal to the one hour worker, regardless of the contract that had been established when I agreed to work. And it is true, sometimes I do feel like I am "working harder" than others even though we will receive the same reward. I don't know why I feel like I was one of the early ones to the vineyard. I am not supposed to compare myself to others. It is about focusing on my relationship with God. It's about my response to God's grace. I can't determine what other people will do with their gift, only what I will do with mine.

Personal application: Focus on seeking God's desires for me and not compare my efforts, my gifts and talents, my service to those of others. God created us each individually. Therefore, he has different work for us to do. My desire should be to complete the work God has prepared for me to do.

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