Jesus has been both instructing and illustrating about greatness in the Kingdom and great crowds began to follow him. Most recently, he has been warning about money and wealth – and how it captures the heart and mind to the loss of eternal perspective and the obstacle to considered redemption. Last week, we learned that the love of money, as illustrated by the instruction to give it away, exposes the heart and a refusal to follow Jesus. Now the subject is expanded to priorities – to leaving everything in following Jesus. Now Jesus strikes at the core question of justice – what if life is perceived as unfair? How does that rate in the Kingdom?
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:13-16.
1. How do we deal with the unfairness of life? Clearly, both in the common ground of life, in our work and families, in communities, in our station give at birth, in where we live and who our family is. Life can be unfair. And if God graded on the curve, based on our merit or lack of the same, we might have a beef. But now the parable of the labors in the vineyard, and the master of the vineyard paying the same wages for different hours worked during the day, raised both the protest of the workers and the explanation of the master. The first point: Life will be unfair. And if we look at our human affairs, we will always get tripped up about understanding the kingdom of God.
2. But with God we get what we were promised, not what we think we deserve! And good for us that we do. If we got what was fair, we would all be condemned to an eternity apart from God because of our heritage in Adam and our acts of sin and rejection of the message of the gospel and the revelation of God. What we really want is not what we deserve, but mercy, grace, receiving what we did not deserve, and could not earn on our own!
3. Again, those who are least as the measure of greatness in the Kingdom. So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Matthew 18:1-5
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:10-13.
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:1-3
News flash for eternity! Understanding our life requires that we come to grips with the twin truths. First, life as we want to naturally measure it always has a cacophony of unfairness – of getting less than my neighbor, to whom I want to constantly compare myself. Second, we can’t chase fairness, not only because it does not exist in our world, but because it is antithetical to the gospel message:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.. Ephesians 2:8-10.
Next week - As we approach Easter, we see in our developing narrative Jesus predicting his death, and continuing negotiations for spiritual standing from the disciples, despite the repeated death narrative mixed together.
- John Moore