Sunday

‘Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (vs. 15b-16)

Matthew 20:1-16 Sunday 20 September 2020

Psalm: Psalm 145:1-9

Background

Sometimes it is the smallest of words that matters. This parable starts (in most translations) with the word ‘for’ and the word is there in the original Greek. This means the parable continues on from what has gone before. So, what just happened in Matthew’s Gospel? In Chapter 19 Jesus met the rich young man and astonished both him and the disciples by telling him to give his money away. Then he got into a discussion about the rewards for following him, especially for those who have given up everything. ‘For’ says our parable, ‘this is what the kingdom of heaven is like’.

So, this is a parable about the kingdom of heaven, but the context is discipleship and the rewards of discipleship. In many ways this is underlined by the fact that the landowner is looking for labourers for a vineyard. This is a classic biblical image for Israel; see for example Isaiah 5:1-7 where God is pictured complaining that she carefully dug a vineyard, but it has not produced the expected grapes.

Some of you may work in the ‘gig economy’, others have become aware of how precarious life can be without steady employment during lockdown. This parable is set in a world where many struggled with just these issues. These are day labourers and it is quite possible that they had families dependent on them being paid for a full day’s work to buy even the basics for survival.

So, Jesus brings these two worlds together, the world of serving the reign of God with the world of a precarious economy. He then asks us to ponder how comparing ourselves with others affects us. The first labourers thought they had a perfectly good deal, until they began to think that others were being treated differently. But he also asks us to think about grace. The owner is generous to those who were in a very vulnerable position. What does it do to our sense of God’s grace when people are not treated equally?

 

To Ponder:

  • Which character in the parable do you feel most sympathy for and why?
  • Put yourself in Peter’s shoes – you have just pointed out how much you have given up in order to follow Jesus and he responds with this parable. How would you react?
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