God Gives Not the Worst But the Best

Matthew 20:1-16

Today is another day that you and I are able to rejoice in the love and the grace that God has showered upon each one of us. Actually every day is. And yet maybe we don’t feel like rejoicing every day. Maybe every day we don’t feel as if it is a day God has showered his grace and love upon us. The Lord tells us why. He tells us that our thoughts are not always his thoughts. Our plans are not always his plans. And sometimes with our small thinking and our small planning, we limit God’s great infinite kindness and mercy. Listen to ISAIAH 55:8,9: “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’.” Now this is exactly what our text explains to us today. We are going to examine a divine contradiction. Right at the end of out it states: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” God gives to believers what is right in his sight. This is our theme for today. GOD GIVES BELIEVERS WHAT IS RIGHT IN HIS SIGHT. I. God gives to you and me not the worst, which we deserve, II. God gives to you and me only the best, which we do not deserve. 

Our text describes the kingdom of God with a parable. Jesus said, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner, who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.” And so it was that the men gathered in the market place, waiting for someone to come along and hire them that they may work. The landowner who goes out, and we recognize as God himself. When the landowner sends out the workers they make a contract for their wages. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyards. So the owner got together with the workers and said, “how about a denarius for your work?” They agreed, and he sends them to the vineyards to work. The denarius was generally a days wages, at times, little generous but not unusual. A soldier was paid a denarius. This amount was not much, about a penny–a little more, a little less. So they went out to work. 
The owner checks the workers and realizes there is more work to be done. There is a great harvest in the vineyard. So about the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the market place, doing nothing. He told them “you also go and work in my vineyard.” So there were still people who were standing idly by. The owner goes and says: “you too can have work. You too will be able to help with the harvest.” And we are told he went out again about the sixth hour, the ninth hour and did the same thing. More workers were needed for the harvest. He goes out at these different hours. At nine o’clock, twelve o’clock and three o’clock. It is the third, the sixth and the ninth hour of the day, so the time is getting later. We think he’s got enough workers. But what happens? About the eleventh hour, so getting to the end of the day already, he went out and found still others standing around. And he asked them “why have you been standing around here all day long doing nothing.” So these laborers were hired at about 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon, the eleventh hour, twelve hours in a day, so they were only going to work an hour. No one had hired them, so he sends them out. The owner said to them: “you also go and work in my vineyard”. Nothing is mentioned of a contract here. Nothing is mentioned of a payment, except with the first ones. 
The landowner keeps his promise, and does obey the law. For when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman to pay the workers. When the sun set the Levitical law said the workers were to be paid. So at the end of the day the foreman is to call the workers. The owner says, “Call the workers, pay them their wages beginning with the last ones hired and going to the first.” The ones last hired were certain to be closer to come back in from the field and would be paid first. The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. They were overjoyed, happy and they were rejoicing. The owner did not repay them with the worst that they expected. Even though by human thinking and by human standards you would think that is all they deserved. 
There are many parallels for us today. In today’s society what do people think they deserve? To have wealth and possessions, to have a position of power or glory or honor — this is the best in the eyes of the world and in men’s thinking. This is what mankind thinks he deserves. The world around us and society in general lives life as if it is heaven here on earth. Many do not care about eternity. Except when they die and they think they are going to deserve to get into heaven. But what is the honest to goodness truth? The honest to goodness Scriptural truth is that you and I deserve nothing at all. We deserve only the worst. Because when we look at ourselves honestly our lives are the worst. We sin every day against God who loves us. With our actions, with our words and with our thoughts we sin often and much. Today the Lord reminds us for those who think they can save themselves, and he reminds us when we think we are doing a good job in our Christian life he says: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it”(JAMES 2:10). You know Jesus heard that from the Scribes and Pharisees and the rich man: “Well, we have kept all the laws. We deserve blessing!” But the Lord reminds us if we sin just once we have broken ALL of God’s Laws. 
There is no escape. The world might try to deny it. From time to time we might even try to deny it. And yet the end result of sin and its consequence is the same for everyone. There is physical death. There is the end of this life. That is part of the judgment, part of the consequence of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. Simply put — everybody dies for every person sins. Because of our sins we deserve eternal death. 
But God gives to believers what is right in his sight. He doesn’t condemn us to eternal punishment. He doesn’t hand us over to Satan. Instead our gracious God and loving Lord saves us by grace. We notice that the workers are standing around. They are not really going anywhere looking for a job. The landowner comes and finds them and he calls them to work. The first hour, the third hour, the sixth hour, the ninth hour, the eleventh hour, on and on he keeps calling them. The Lord has done that for us. By our sinful nature we don’t go out of our way to find God. And even in our new man, our new nature, sometimes we put behind us the things of God to do the things that our sinful nature likes to do. We can rejoice again today that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his plans are greater than our plans. God lovingly saves us by his grace. Recall Ephesians, those familiar words from Chapter 2: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast”((EPHESIANS 2:8,9). We are saved by God’s grace. We cannot boast of anything done on our own for our own salvation. 
We can, in a sense, boast that God gives to us what is right in his sight. Not what we deserve, not the worst. But God gives to us only the best. 

That is the second point of the text here, isn’t it? This landowner, this master, God himself, was going to treat people with mercy and kindness and love and generosity. This act of kindness made others mad. Remember he goes out the first hour and he finds a whole group of men willing to work, gives them a denarius a day; a pretty good wage. Third, sixth, ninth, eleventh hour, the landowner doesn’t mention wages, but what does he say? “You also go and work in my vineyard and I will pay you whatever is right.” He is going to give them what is right in his sight. Whatever he determines is right. And that was to be enough for them. The workers hired at later hours didn’t have to ask: “Well, are we going to get a denarius? Or some other wage? Are we going to get two-thirds, or 1/12th?” Very simply the next verse states, “So they went”. The Lord called them. They went. 
But when all were given the same wage, there was grumbling. “So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.” That is the exact, fair wage they had agreed to. But “when they received it they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour’ they said, ‘and you who have made them equal to us who have born the burden of the work and the heat of the day’.” They were the same. The master was going to be generous. And he explains why. There are a couple of reasons here. “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?’” That is what they had agreed to. A denarius. Why should they expect anymore? Now they could grumble and complain if they were paid less, but they weren’t. All were given the best. He was already being generous with the denarius. So he says to them: “take your pay and go. I want to give to the man who was hired last the same as I gave you.” These words remind us of familiar words on the last day when he says to the goats on the left: “Go out of my sight.” 
This master is generous and why not. “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?” They were envious because the master was generous. They were upset because they thought they were being treated unfairly. And yet the master did what was right in his sight. He says the harvest came in, it is completed, and the laborer is worth his hire. Then he says at the end: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Those who humble themselves, he says, who are considered last in the eyes of the world are going to be first. And those who are first in the eyes of world are going to be humbled by God himself. 
Our gracious God uses that teaching time and again to remind us of the power of his grace to save each one of us. Again, God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts. God’s ways and plans are greater than our ways and plans. When Paul begins the letter to the believers at Corinth he reminded them how God uses his ways, his plans to carry out what he wants done. God’s ways may not always seem that important to man. In first Corinthians 1 God says: “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 CORINTHIANS 1:27). God chose the cross that he might defeat Satan. God chose death for his Son, that he would defeat death for his believers. And God chose love to cover up the sinfulness of mankind. Those items, in the eyes of the world, are weak things. They may not appear very strong. But for you and me, for every believer those foolish, weak things of God are our most powerful things because they are the things of God. These are the best things. 
These things of God are the things that cause us to rejoice every day of our lives, even in the midst of trial and tribulation. We can rejoice even in the midst of sadness and sickness when we look at what God gives us. He gives us what is right in his sight. Consider the price God paid for us as written in first Peter: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 PETER 1:18,19). Today, as every day, we can celebrate. We come to the Lord’s table and are reminded that in this bread we have the Lord’s body and in this wine we have the Lord’s blood. That saving fact opens the door to heaven. That fact of faith gives us the best that is yet to come. And as we look ahead to the best that is yet to come, we can enjoy this life, even though sometimes we might feel we are give us some of the worst things. 
We rejoice today because the Lord himself gives us what is right in his sight: the best–eternity, forgiveness. The Apostle Paul, we know his story quite well–if you don’t get out the books of Acts and read through it this week. The Apostle Paul went around persecuting the followers of the Way. Paul realized that when the Lord called him and changed his life, made him a believer , that he was still the worst of sinners. But as he went around preaching and teaching he realized God’s grace saved him as the worst of sinners. I am the worst Paul said, and God gave me the best. You and I are also the worst, but God still gave us the best. For what reason? Paul explains: “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (I TIMOTHY 1:16). Paul says God was patient with him. Today you and I agree. God is patient with us. 
Our entire lifetime our sinful nature drags us down and we give into the temptations of this world. We follow them—the plans of Satan and we listen to our own sinful desires. We are the worst of sinners, but God is patient. And instead of letting us walk down the path of destruction–right into the pit of hell–God reaches down and lifts us up and forgives our sins through the precious blood of Christ. God gives believers what is right in his sight. We’d be like these workers wouldn’t we? We could easily grumble and complain because of our sinful nature. God’s grace is abundant, whether we are new believers, old believers; whether we think we sin a little or a lot, God still desires to forgive us. The price of forgiveness is still the same: The blood of his Son, Jesus, on the cross. God gives us what is right in his sight. Not what we deserve, not the worst, but he gives us what is right in his sight, only the best: What we do not deserve or have not earned. The Psalm writer says: “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us “(PSALM 103:9-12). God gives us what is right in his sight – not the worst – only the best!

This message from Timm O. Meyer is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On Project

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