Friday 11 November 2016

Bible Book:

] ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.’” (vv. 12-14)

Matthew 20:1-16 Friday 11 November 2016

Psalm: Psalm 46


This parable appears only in Matthew's Gospel. Recognising itscontext is crucial for understanding what it is for the disciplesof Jesus to be part of a community of grace - whether it is the(more likely) emphasis of Matthew because of where he chooses toplace this story or the emphasis of Jesus because this teachingreally did appear between the events depicted in the text.

On his final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus has challenged hisdisciples about their approach to wealth. They have witnessed arich young man being told to give all his possessions to the poor(Matthew 19:21) and Jesus has said that it ishard for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23). Peter notes that the 12apostles had already left everything to follow Jesus, and, onasking what their reward will be, has been told that in heaven theywill receive power and wealth and eternal life (Matthew 19:27-29). Just a few verses after thisparable we see the mother of James and John not being satisfiedwith any old thrones for her sons, but wanting the best thrones (Matthew 20:21)!

Yet as part of his teaching about God's grace, Jesus points outthat the disciples cannot expect, on the basis that they haveworked the most and been with him since the beginning of hismission, to receive more than others. Notice that Jesus does morethan promise thrones to the 12: he also guarantees that everyonewho has left everything behind to follow him will inherit eternallife - not just his longest-serving disciples.

Preachers have used this parable through the centuries to speakabout fair wages, shift working and employment rights (in bothRoman and their own times), about benevolent and dictatorialemployers, and about the relative status of Christians (upstart newmembers of God's kingdom) and Jews (God's people for centuries).They have pointed out that life-long membership of the Church givesno privileges in God's eyes beyond that of new Christians. But thetrue power for any parable comes when we apply it to ourselves, andask 'What does this say to me, and about my attitude to God'sgrace?'

To Ponder

  • What does the concept of grace say to you when you think youdeserve more than others?
  • The last workers worked only an hour. What if they had workedfor only one minute? Or picked one grape?
  • If you are part of a church congregation, what does thisparable say to you about the status of newcomers to yourchurch?
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