Sermon Text: God isn’t fair…

September 20, 2020 Church Blog, Sermons, Sunday Message0

To watch the video as you read the sermon below please go to our SUNDAY Bulletin >>>

Proper 20A: Matthew 20:1-18: God isn’t fair…

  1. Our economy generally runs on an equitable principle: work harder and you’ll probably receive more compensation
    1. That hasn’t always been the case
      1. Throughout most of history the laborers (not to sound Marxist) were exploited by those with power and privilege – you worked just to live while someone else lived sumptuously off of your labor
      1. Certainly, our own history of slavery bears that out
      1. But what was unique to America was that was not supposed to be the ideal, at least in our founding documents, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
      1. And as our nation continues to struggle to fully embody those ideals, for many people of all races and nationalities, they have realized the promise that you could work hard and with tenacity and luck you could prosper
    1. And even if most cultures throughout history haven’t followed the principle it doesn’t mean they didn’t understand it
      1. Basic human nature says those who work harder should get more than someone who works less – it fits with our notion of “fair”
      1. That is the world that humanity has striven to create, especially since the middle of the 20th century, a world that is fair and equitable for all – it’s not a bad goal but it is unique in world history
      1. But God’s economy ISN’T our economy as our Lord tells us through Isaiah this morning (a verse we’ve used often), “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
      1. God is not fair – He is gracious and that does not conform to our thoughts.
  2. In our Gospel lesson this morning Jesus illustrates that God’s grace isn’t fair.
    1. The parable is actually Jesus’ explanation about His conversation with the rich young man which had just preceded this in chapter 19.
      1. Remember he was very proud of himself, and wanted Jesus to acknowledge his “goodness” he asked a loaded question, “Teacher what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
      1. Jesus told him to keep the Commandments; the young man says he does
      1. Then He told him to sell everything he had, give to the poor and follow him – the man went away sad because he had great wealth
    1. Our Lord then comments how difficult it will be for the rich to enter heaven with a saying we know well, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. (Mt 19:24)
      1. But it dawns on Peter, “See, we have left everything and followed you (unlike the rich man). What then will we have?” – What about us?!
      1. The chapter concludes with our Lord’s warning, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
      1. That’s the tie-in with the parable in our Gospel, the two weren’t meant to be separated but as one illuminating the other – God isn’t fair He’s gracious
  3. Our Lord continues in our lesson today, “For the kingdom of heaven is like…”
    1. In parables such as these (and there are several) the master, judge, etc is God the servants are usually us and so on…
      1. As the parable unfolds it’s really quite an unrealistic earthly situation, the master of a house going out and hiring laborers at 6AM, 9AM, Noon, 3PM, and 5.
      1. And the first group agrees to work for 1 denarius while the others were promised to be paid, “whatever was right (in Greek – JUST).”
      1. At day’s end the master has the workers paid beginning with the last, and to their surprise and delight they are paid 1 denarius
      1. Of course, those looking on who worked all day naturally expected more, but when they didn’t receive it they grumbled
    1. We’re used to kids grumbling when they don’t get their way, “It’s not fair…”
      1. What if everyone in class got an A for their work, including those who did almost no work at all?!
      1. But it’s a complaint we never really grow out of isn’t it?
      1. Like the workers in the parable, “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.” – it’s not fair!
  4. But our Lord’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His values are not ours, God is not fair, He’s gracious
    1. In the context of this parable that means our Lord paid all of the workers the same wage whether for a full day or one hour – a picture of God’s grace
      1. Of course, this illustrates salvation, it’s the same whether a person has served the Lord the whole day (lifelong) or the 11th hour (death bed)
      1. Our minds scream, “Wait a minute I worked my whole life…sacrificed everything…and that guy who didn’t do or believe until late gets it too?!”
      1. The sinful human mind rejects grace because it doesn’t make sense – in the world you don’t get something for nothing.
    1. But in the Lord’s eyes NONE of us has fulfilled the Law perfectly, we deserve something but it’s not a reward
      1. Ecc 7 says, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”
      1. Rom 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
      1. If we got what was fair none of us would be rewarded, there would only be punishment.  You don’t want to be treated fairly by God you want to be treated graciously.
    1. If anything the One who’s treated unfairly in this transaction is God.  Look at how He accomplished our salvation, was there anything fair about that?
      1. Is it “fair” that you and I committed the crimes and got off scot-free at someone else’s expense?
      1. God took the injustice of our sin upon Himself and bore our punishment so that He could save that which was unsavable by any other means.
      1. Is it fair that you get to confess your sins, essentially say your sorry, and make no reparations? It wouldn’t stand in human court!
      1. But Psalm 110 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
    1. Praise God that He is gracious and not fair.  Praise God that He loved us so that the last and the least will indeed be first because for sinners such as me and sinners such as you there is hope.