Matthew 20:1-2 For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. : After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.
There is a myth, many people believe it, it is never the less untrue and harmful. With some myths it really doesnít matter whether they are true or not, for example, the Abominable Snowman, for us in Iowa, it really doesnít make much difference, its only a curiosity. But the myth I speak of tonight, is not idle curiosity, but something that reaches into every home and effects every life, for the my on which I speak, is one relating to the meaning and purpose of life. Its a simple question, why are we here? The problem is that the correct answer, the one that is right from Godís perspective, is getting harder and harder to find.
What we are hearing, is that the point of life is to do as little as you have to do. We are hearing that retirement is something that people do, when they have enough wealth that they no longer need to work. So it is that everyone is working harder and longer looking towards something called the golden years, when we can live at ease, eat, drink and be merry. We are hearing that the purpose of life is to not work - and as soon as you say it, you know that it doesnít make any sense.
There are 2 reasons for work, first because there are things we need, and second because it feels good to accomplish something. God is very clear about sluggards and the lazy who do not wish to work, if they do not work, neither should the eat. God also indicates that heaven will not be a place where we lounge around wondering what we should do next, although work as a means will no longer be reason, for God will provide everything, the one thing that remains is the good feeling in seeing a good job well done, and the satisfaction in accomplishing something useful. There is one more thing that will be different about the work we will have in heaven, it will not seem pointless, and it will not be futile. It is with this background, that we can look at tonightís parable.
The kingdom of God is life a landowner who went out early to hire laborers to bring in the grape harvest. Thatís good news, especially in Jesus day, for there were many who wanted to work, but there were not always jobs. Day laborers worked for what they and their family needed for each day, no work and the whole family suffers, and there is no food. The Kingdom of God is God hiring, jobs for everyone, productive work, something that one can take pride in. The alternative is no work today, nothing to do, and nothing to eat.
And if that were the end of the story, well it would still be good news. But its not the end of the story. As the day progresses the owner keeps returning to marketplace in search of more workers, who are given jobs. In the end, everyone has been offered a job, everyone has the opportunity to do productive work, and to earn the things that they need for daily life. No one is left idle, no one is left to be hungry. And if the story ended here, that would be fine, it would be good news about full employment content and satisfied workers and a job well done.
But it doesnít end here, does it? The end of the day comes, and the workers are paid. Each receives what they need, for al needed a days wages to provide for the days needs. And that is the problem, because it doesnít seem fair, some worked all day, some perhaps an hour, and theyíre all paid the same.
There are 2 points that Jesus is making. First is that God has a right to do what he wants, including to show generosity. Sometimes thatís the hardest thing to hear and to learn. Its hard to hear, because we believe that if we work we have a right to see the fruit of our labors. This is something God has never promised, in fact God calls it a blessing when we can see the fruit of our labors, for often, in this world, we will not; but thatís no excuse for quitting. If we keep the law perfectly, we meet the minimum requirement for being part of the people of God, if we sin once, no amount of work can make up for the one sin. For the wages of sin is death. If thatís the wages, I know fee who would rush to collect their due, and we all sin, we have all fallen short of the glory of God.
The second point is the one which is not here stated, but elsewhere Jesus encourages all who would follow to store up treasures in heaven, and thatís what work here is about.