St. Matthew 20:1-16
February 13, 2022 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The parable of the vineyard workers minimizes the difference in the hours worked. All who remain in the vineyard, no matter how long or short they worked, get the same wage, not the wages of the day laborer according to a legal contract, but the vineyard itself. They remain in the vineyard as members of the family while the ungrateful and proud are cast out. They do not gain this by merit but by grace. The inheritance is a gift that can’t be earned. It is given away for free. Thus rescued from the marketplace, they work alongside their Father and brothers in peace and harmony, not for someone else but for themselves.
Yet even though the difference is minimized, and the end reward and gift is the same, the difference is noted. The vineyard owner has the steward line them up in reverse order. He knows how long they worked and so do they. The weak in faith are neither belittled nor will they be in the least bit disappointed. They are honored and they rejoice. But their works do follow them. There are degrees of glory in heaven.
There are a couple of warnings and rebukes in the parable. The first is to not be lazy. We are meant to get to work. The work itself is a joy and is purposeful because it is in the vineyard. We work alongside our Father and brothers. It includes some burdens and the heat of the day. You will suffer. You will be persecuted. But you will not be alone. Your suffering is not without purpose or an end. Do not seek the path of least resistance. Do not avoid pain at all costs. Embrace the work of the Kingdom.
The next is that those who insist on what they have earned and deserve will be damned. If you refuse the forgiveness of Christ, His grace and favor, and want only what is just, you will be sent out to what your sins deserve: eternal damnation. There is no salvation apart from faith in Christ. Hell is not reserved for the worst of sinners but for all sinners. If heaven is based upon merit, neither is Hell based upon overt wickedness. There are no bargains to be made with God and He does not care if your sins are minor when compared to others. You take what He gives, trusting that it is and will be good even if it doesn’t seem so now, or you go to Hell.
We dare not judge our value or worth compared to others. Our value comes not from within ourselves but in what Christ was willing to pay for us. And that applies to all people.
We are to receive those who are weaker in faith, who have worked less hours than us or committed greater sins or have more doubts than us, with joy. Every Christian is a servant of Christ. We are all servants of one another. Christ is our only master and judge. His eye is good. Our eyes must not be evil. His goodness is how we all get into the Kingdom and none of us deserves it.
Therefore we must not judge one another in matters of indifference or liberty or think ourselves superior. Paul writes: “Each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore” (Romans 14:12-13, NKJ).
But we are to recognize weakness in one another. We can’t see into men’s hearts and we aren’t to make comparisons, but we must judge both good works and also gross, public sins. We must do this so that we might serve one another, in compassion, and be true brothers.
Again, Paul writes: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Immediately Paul issues a further caveat and warning. Do this in a spirit of gentleness, carefully, “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. (Ga 6:1–5, NKJ).
We receive those who are weak in faith with great joy, but they do not desire to remain weak nor would we keep them that way. They want to grow in Christ, in wisdom and works and liberty. Those who worked only 1 hour and then got the reward and remained in the vineyard, worked all day the next day – or at least they tried to. If the parable is a description not only of the end of faith but also the life of faith, then we know they all struggled. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Those who worked only 1 hour the first day will need help acclimatizing and building up strength and patience in order to work longer stretches. We are to receive them with joy, not looking upon their weakness with derision, but with compassion. We don’t need to make ourselves feel better by comparing ourselves to those who are weaker or came late to the party or don’t know as much as we do. We are redeemed by Christ. He loves us and forgives us. We don’t need anything else. That is our worth and we love those whom He loves.
We do look and notice weaknesses and strengths. We do this in order to encourage and help one another. This is how love covers a multitude of sins. It doesn’t cover sin that it might fester and grow in secret, but it covers it with healing balm, in mercy, that it might heal and become strong.
God has not called us to work in a butcher shop or asphalt factory. He has called us to a vineyard. Vineyards produce wine to make glad the hearts of men by delivering to them the Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Redeemed by grace, work is in this Kingdom, alongside this Father, with Jesus as our brother, is purest joy.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.