7/7/2019 – Matthew 20:1-15

by admin on July 7, 2019

7/7/2019 – Wrap Up Message Audio


I Wish Jesus Wouldn’t Have Said That.1

Matthew 20:1-15

7 July 2019   


All in a Day’s Labor


Talk about unfair, irresponsible, lavish, out of control, unfair labor practices; you can’t trust management for anything.  Somebody call the Feds, state labor dept; OSHA; get a lawyer.


Well—to get things rollingà $1 gold coin..


I know what some of you are thinking—

  • another cockamamie idea of Bill’s
  • he only gave money to people he likes
  • he only gave to people he needs something from
  • It’s unfair, why her, what about me?
  • Hey, is this his money or a church slush fund?

I know what many of you are thinking because I think the same way.  All the earmarks of unfairness—to someone.


Talk about unfair.  Jesus’ parable/story/his sermon that day reeked of it.  Here’s a true to life story.  It presupposes hard facts—

  • Poor day laborers in a time of high unemployment.
  • Job to jobàprecarious at best
  • Exhausting labor for a pittance pay
  • A scene right out of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. CW song if ever there was oneà Hard livin’ ain’t hardly livin’ at all.


Read this story a couple of time and you’ll discover an unsettling concentration on the exact number of hours worked and on the hope of payment.  Hope by the working poor as they compare themselves to one another 


The late comers get a dollar (denarius).  The first workers cheer at the boss’ generosity, swiftly calculating they’ll get a larger paycheck.  Nada.


Here is a blaring contrast between civilized calculation (math we do in our head when comparing who gets what at our expense) and shocking undeserved generosity.  This is unbounded, energetic goodness on the loose.

It drips with unfairness.


Was Jesus giving a case study on 1st century labor law?  Was he illustrating the need for more equitable employment practices? Perhaps he was passing out his business card for his consulting firm. 


No, he told this story about God.  And it’s in response to a question St. Peter raised in the story before—Hey, Jesus, if everyone is getting in on all this reckless abandon on God’s part—what about us?  Yeh, what about usà or more importantlyà what about ME?


What really bothers me about this story is the question raised by the boss’ repeated trips to the labor pool. He goes down to the union hall at 6, 9, noon, 3 and 5.  Does he hire those guys at 5 just to get his crop into the barns?  Or because he sees them unemployed?  If it’s the latter we got big labor issues.


Yes.  This story should be offensive.  It scrapes against our sense of justice.  It is indeed a challenge to recognize and accept God’s embrace of the less deserving.


The climax of this parable is in verse 15à “Can’t I do what I want with my own money?  Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?”  à Evil eye. 


These guys who worked all day for a dollar—they are rightfully angry.  But here is a more penetrating question leveled at them, pushing aside their legitimate complaints. 


Do you have the evil eyeà are you so tied to an egocentric vision that you can only discern in my gesture of kindness to another person, only an act deprecating you? 


When undeserved good things happen to other people, do you automatically become envious, scornful, and judgmental?  They got something I didn’t.  Why do we think like that?


People who study this stuff call it “meaning in life.”

Life has meaning because we value a certain set, constellation, connection of attitudes and ideals that stand close to the center of our personal identity.  It is the key to judge what’s important in relation to time, people, and events.


We act in ways that follow what we think is dependable and trustworthy.  What makes sense at the end of the day?  For one thing—getting a bigger paycheck because I worked longer.


Jesus presents a singular source of meaning here—The Grace of God that’s downright radical.


This is a foundational story in the Bible (Worth memorizing) because it answers our primary life questionà what about me?


How we discover the answer will make all the difference in out lives. 

Labor Day—work, job, labor.  Here is a greater work for all of us regardless of career. Our careers do not define us, but this greater work will.


Greek word for “work” is “liturgy”   Worship.  Worship is real work for people who want to engage Jesus.  What matters is what we will invest our lives, our labor and our love in and how we name that investment.


à de Mello….”Good News”  pg, 117—Song


Every Sunday we read the Scripture and become engaged with Jesus Christ.  He is the first and the last and all points in between.  He is the only hope for our thirsty world because he is Truth beyond religion.  And only he can create the quality of the person our world so desperately needs.  Quality of person?  Generosity.


When we all stand before the throne of judgment and be the audience for one another when Jesus gives out “just desserts”à just desserts? Problem with God is that he loves everyone.   Will we be able to say like the older brother: “I’d do it all over again?”


When we grow in receiving the generosity of God we won’t even have to think twice about anything being unfair. It’s all in a day’s liturgy, labor and love.

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