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The Undeserving

My dream for this community is we would become a church gathering that affirms the infinite worth of every single person.

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


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.

Parables – challenge things we already thought we knew.

Some people will never learn anything for this reason: because they understand everything too soon. (Alexander Pope 18th century english poet)

We tend to think of the truth as something we’ve already found. Boom! Done! Now I know the truth! So glad that’s done.

We file it under the category ‘Things I know.’ But parables come and challenge what we thought was already clear.

Title: The Undeserving

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 was because they didn’t like what other people got.

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.


Here you are. Lucky dog American. Did you earn that?

Palestine / Haiti? Why aren’t you a Syrian refugee right now?

“Well, God love me that much.” – Careful.

In our parable, they didn’t deserve to be picked first, it was just right place, right time.

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

1. The lens of competition.

Way of Cain

Me and Delaney – minecraft

2. The lens of love.

Way of Jesus.

Starbucks paying for the person behind you. So unlike the world.

Viewed through lens of competition, the story is unfair. Viewed through the lens of love, the story is beautiful.

As we close:

(Prepare – Communion)

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

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. 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 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, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
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 to self that we are born 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