24 Sep Workers in God’s Field
The parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20: 1-16) is about… what, exactly?
Well first of all, let us beware that Jesus is certainly making God look like a socialist here! This is no way to run a business or a kingdom let me tell you, if you pay the laborers who worked all day in the field the same wages as those who worked only the latter part of the day you will soon find no one working at all and everyone standing around with a hand out. won’t you?
Is that what heaven is like?
Or let us put it this way, if God hands out forgiveness in equal measures to all who believe, can we handle that in our heads and in our hearts? Perhaps, in theory yes…right? But what is it about God’s abundant love that holds us back from serving our neighbors in the joy of a life that has been freed from our bondage to sin.
If you worked your entire life knowing that you believed in God and yet some other person has a conversion on their deathbed, can you function in life knowing that both of you are going to meet up in heaven?
Again, in theory we know that we are supposed to answer, “yes,” correct? In practice it can often be another thing.
But remember that Matthew wrote this Gospel as a catechism. It is a teaching document for the new believers and the ones that have been in the faith for quite some time. For whenever two believers come together, no matter how strong their faith, sin creeps in and around the edges and sooner or later commandments start getting broken. And in this case, it appears to me, Jesus is teaching his disciples and us about coveting. He is explaining the 9th and 10th commandments.
And so the parable of the laborers in the vineyard is about something. It’s about the disciples. It’s not about the kingdom, it’s about you. And it is about how to let God be God.
“Friend, the master tells the grumbling laborers, I am doing you no wrong.”
God does us no wrong in granting us salvation through his Son. But how far does that forgiveness extend?
To the no-good folks that live down your road?
To the evil that we see come across our TV screens on a daily basis?
If God extended God’s mercy that far, would you be OK with that?
Jesus is telling us, “don’t worry about it.” Coveting is wanting something that someone else has. But here you are, believers. So what if God loves gay and straight people, liberal and conservatives, Americans, Asians, Arabs…? It doesn’t make your labor any more in vain nor your wages worth any less. It doesn’t make the forgiveness that you have been given any less than God is determined to give everyone into the vineyard for their work.
So, then, let’s pause for just a moment to think about those laborers. We may be familiar with how the day laborer process works. Groups of generally guys gathered on a corner waiting for someone to show up and tell them to do a day’s labor so that they can get paid. To feed their families, pay the rent, pay the electric bill. Those laborers that got picked up early in the morning knew just how much they were making and could go about the day confident that there would be food on the table that night.
But how do you think the guys who stood there all day felt? As the sun began to go down and their prospects shrank minute by minute. It probably appeared to them that another day was lost. How are we going to make it through the night? The owner finally went out and got them but why did they have to wait so long?
So, my word to you today is this, rather than thinking about what everybody else has, why not turn your minds and your hearts to those who might not yet be with us at work in the vineyard. Why are we letting them continue to wait? What is holding us back from extending our community of grace and mercy and forgiveness to them? Why make them wait?
And if you know people are standing there, just waiting to be “put to work,” what is holding you back from going out there and getting them yourselves?
We make the mistake over and over again of mixing up the idea that our church belongs to us.
That is the farthest thing from reality that there could ever be.
The church belongs to God, and we are the workers in God’s field.
Someday, this pandemic will be over (believe it or not) and I am hoping and praying that we will do everything in our power not to go back to the status quo. I hope and pray that we will find new ways to go forth from this place to invite all those who have yet to hear God’s word. Invite all who feel like maybe this isn’t a place that would welcome them. That we would go out and gather all of these workers in because we have received our salvation and there is still so much more to go around.