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Designed to catch us in our blindness

When we read bible, we tend to associate with good guy. Of course we’re the good guy!

Brave Israelites & the wicked philistines. Of course we’re the israelites!!! And who’s the bad guy? Well your neighbor, boss, friend, spouse. Someone from another religion.

Parables – challenge things we already thought we knew.

Teach us not only about the Kingdom, but also the King.

Today: One of Jesus most disliked Parables – There’s 46 parables total.

Pastor Shirley – “Nope!!!” I was talkin to pastor Shirley this past week about this parable and she said when she was new to the faith, she’d read this parable and “Nope!!! Can’t be reading that. That story makes me not trust God. And I need to be trusting God.” – Well eventually God gave her a revelation, and I’m proud to tell you that she can read the entirety of Matthew chapter 20 without feeling any pain whatsoever.

Title: The King and his Money

Opening Statement and Question:

God’s generosity makes the undeserving equal with the deserving. Do you resent Him for it?

Before you say “NO!”, let’s explore.

Matthew 20:1-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. (Matthew 20:1)

He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. (Matthew 20:2)

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. (Matthew 20:3)

He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ (Matthew 20:4)

So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. (Matthew 20:5)

About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ (Matthew 20:6)

“ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ (Matthew 20:7)

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ (Matthew 20:8)

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. (Matthew 20:9)

So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. (Matthew 20:10)

When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. (Matthew 20:11)

‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ (Matthew 20:12)

“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? (Matthew 20:13)

Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. (Matthew 20:14)

Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ (Matthew 20:15)

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)


So basically the story Jesus tells is this:

The Kingdom of God is like a landowner who needs people to work his vineyard. So he goes out first thing in the morning – let’s say 6am, and hires people to work till 6pm and he agrees to pay them 1 denarius. Which is a full days wage, so let’s say $100. Then he goes back at 9am and hires more people and this time he tells them ‘I’ll pay you whatever is right’. He does the same thing at noon, at 3pm, and finally at 5pm, when there’s only 1 hour left to work.

And then at the end of the day, he pays everybody the same $100. And the people who had been working the longest are mad and they say ‘It’s not ……… Fair’.

The landowner says ‘Can’t I do what I want with my own money?! Or do you resent me because I’m generous?

And then the only explanation he gives for the parable is this: The first shall be last, and the last, first.

People don’t like this parable.

Love Prodigal son. They write songs about the prodigal son. Don’t make movies, preach sermons on this one. We have been programmed by ‘fair’.

Historically – hinting

Jesus – replacing the idea of jewish nationalism being how you become people of God. Gentiles – people who were worshipping Zeus yesterday, and now we’re supposed to call them equals?! We’ve been bearing the weight of monotheism for 2000 years, and now you’re gonna come treat these filthy pork-chop eating sinners as equals to us?

More than that, he’s commenting on God’s Kingdom & How Jesus (our King) chooses to work.

If anyone other than Jesus had given this story, you’d write it off as nonsense. If this came from Abraham Lincoln. You think it’d be popular? No, I think you’d say “Abe Lincoln was a good guy, but that one story was ridiculous!” If Martin Luther King Jr told it, you’d say he lost his mind.

But Jesus did tell it.

And Jesus gives no interpretation for it. Jesus often times was not in any hurry to explain what his parables meant. He was content to let people sit in the mystery. So that’s what I want to do today. I want to sit in the mystery.

Here’s some questions.

1. Does God want people to get what they deserve?

No. In the kingdom of God, people don’t get what they deserve they get what they need.

These are day workers, they’re living hand to mouth.

They didn’t EARN $100 but they needed it. We have a word for this in the Christian faith: grace.

When someone gets not what they deserve but what they need, because of someones generosity, we could say “Oh, that’s how God would run things!”

If you struggle with this, a commend you, it means your being honest, because this isn’t how the world works. In fact, it’s the opposite of the world. This is something that is so radical that Jesus has to tell it in a story, so we don’t instantly reject it.

2. Why were the first workers mad?

Was it because they didn’t like what they got? No. It’s because they didn’t like what OTHER people got. That they got exactly what they thought they were gonna get. So no issue there. They were mad when they saw how generous God was to other people. And I’m really gonna need you to see yourself in that. Who is the group of people that you think ‘They need to get what they deserve.’? Well what if God comes and treats them as equals to you? What are you gonna do then?

Kiko – Generous Tip

Decades ago, when I was in bible college, me and Kiko, anybody in here remember Kiko, we went to Red Robin and just got this double fudge brownie dessert thing that we were obsessed with. I had just gotten off my shift at Joes Crab Shack, and so I had my tips as cash in my pocket. Well we started chatting with our waitress, who was this sweet young girl. Well come to find, she was a single mom, working 2 jobs to just try to take care of her and her son. She showed us pictures of this gorgeous little boy.

So me and Kiko were thinking: “Hmmm… Well, we’ve got to do something.” And I had made $50 that night, and Kiko and I had the idea of each giving her $50 as a tip, for $100 total. Our tab was I think $8. So we did let the money, and walked out to the parking lot, and she ran out telling us that we forgot our money on the table, and we said ‘No, that’s for you.’ And she cried and we had a little moment there. What a sweet little thing to be able to do.

Now imagine a cook came to me afterwards and said ‘How dare you give her that money and not me!’ I was the one who made that double fudge brownie! – How would you respond? Probably – “Excuse me, it’s my money. I’ll do with it whatever I please.”

This parable is God saying exactly that. “It’s my grace, and I’ll give it to whoever I want. Who asked you anyway?”

In your face question: If God’s grace extends to more people than you had previously thought, will you be happy about it?

What are you gonna do when there’s all these outcasts and lazy people up there with us, and you say “Who let all these people in here with us?!” And what are you gonna do when Jesus says “I did.”

Of course we have to remember that repeatedly said that the measure of severity by which you judge is the same measure that you will be judged by.

3. Why were the 1st 1st, anyway?

When they asked the last group why they were standing around, they said “Because no one hired us.” Maybe there were on the far end of town.

Luck. In our parable, they didn’t deserve to be picked first, it was just right place, right time. Meanwhile, here you are, lucky duck American. Living in the most prosperous nation in the most prosperous generation in the history of the world.

Here’s an Interesting question: “Why are you where you are?” Well some will say “I worked hard for it.” Well what if you were born on an ice float in the Arctic Ocean in the 12th century. I don’t care how hard you’d work, you wouldn’t get very far.

The truth is: You’re hard work, and brilliant decision making, bla bla bla, are just a tiny part of you being what you are. More than any of that is stuff you were born with and had nothing to do with.

We like to think “I’m a self-made man!’

Cambodia. Tell that to the people of Cambodia – millions and millions don’t have access to safe water. Next time to you take a drink of cold, sanitized, safe water, remember that you’re having an experience that millions of people around the world will never know.

My point: You had nothing to do with that.

What this story really does is it tells you what lens you see life through.

1. The Lens of Competition.

We see this lens all through the bible. From people like Cain jealous of his brother Abel, so he kills him. You see it in the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son who’s upset about his fathers unfair love.

2. The Lens of Love.

Which is the way of Jesus.

Viewed through lens of competition, the story is unfair. Viewed through the lens of love, the story is beautiful. Which is it for you?

As we close:

Jesus spent a disproportionate amount of time w/: The Poor… – The Blind – The Lame – The Lepers – The Hungry – Sinners – Prostitutes – Tax Collectors – The Persecuted – The Downtrodden – The Captives – Those possessed by unclean spirits – All who labor and are heavy burdened, – The rebel who spits on the law – The Little Ones – The Least – The Last – The Lost

The Christian life is not about being – Number 1 There’s something wrong with always needing to be Number 1.

Jesus rode a donkey.

Greed is something that is to always be rejected. That’s true in individuals, groups, churches, corporations.

Jesus didn’t teach capitalism. Nor did he teach socialism. He taught something altogether different. He taught love.

My world view will always be following after the love of Jesus. If you teach me a worldview that violates my love for people, I stop listening.

We have to be a community where we’re striving to grow that part of us that cheers when others succeed. We feel that greed come in, we reject it as not the way of God. Have to understand that the way of the kingdom of God will never make sense to the world. It’s something completely ‘other’.

Closing Statement

Life is not a game where others need to fail for you to succeed. Life is not a game where you have to be ‘Looking out for Number 1’. No, the Christian life isn’t nearly that fair. The kingdom of God is not where people get what they deserve, the kingdom of God is where people get what they need.

At the end of the day, we’re ALL the late-day workers that receive a full days wage after working only an hour. That’s the grace of God.

May the mysterious generosity of God so perplex us, so move us, so frustrate us, that we’re stolen from our blindness, to see the world through the generous eyes of the father.


No matter who you are. “Come all the same.”

“I only worked 1 hour.” “Come all the same.”

“I don’t deserve him, but I need him.”

Life tastes sweeter when you remember that you didn’t earn it.

As they pass, spend a minute thinking about this gift of life. You didn’t earn it, you don’t deserve it, it was a gift, and for it we’re eternally grateful.


Confess – Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, let me sow pardon;
where there is doubt, let me sow faith;
where there is despair, let me sow hope;
where there is darkness, let me sow light;
where there is sadness, let me sow joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
less to be understood as to understand;
less to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.


Jesus Christ, tonight we remember that all life is a gift. And as we bless this bread and this cup, we believe that you’re freeing us from the broken worldview of competition. We ask that you help us see the world not in a ‘they’ll get what they deserve’ kind of way. But help us to see like you, where our truest motive is love of you and love of others. When we remember those who are undeserving of you, we include ourselves in that. And we vow to be thankful for your goodness and not resentful of your generosity. All life is a gift and we say trust you with our whole lives. And we thank you.

Remember death / Proclaim resurrection / Await return

Let’s eat the bread and drink from the cup.