Living on the front line

Study 11: All in a day's work

“It’s not fair!” How often have you and I heard those words?
Grace
These words are common amongst children where one child has something the other doesn’t have or one child has something the other wants.

Then again, as adults, we have a kind of pecking order over things we feel entitled to. Even if we have reservations about putting emotions, feelings or attitudes into words – a vengeful look or an act of petty spitefulness usually suffices. What we’re really doing is saying “it’s not fair.”

In our study we’ll see how Jesus takes us away from the idea that things revolve around us as He points us towards the grace of God. We are rewarded according to His order, not for what we feel we’ve earned or to which we are entitled.

When there are dissensions, and jealousies, and evil speakings among professors of religion, then there is great need of a revival. These things show that Christians have got far from God, and it is time to think earnestly of a revival. (Charles Finney)

…. if you find that, despite all the efforts to forgive, your anger and bitterness cannot subside, you may need to look deeper and ask, 'What am I defending? What is so important that I cannot live without?' It may be that, until some inordinate desire is identified and confronted, you will not be able to master your anger. (Tim Keller)

Please read Matthew 19 verse 28 to chapter 20 verses 16.  What strikes you about this passage of scripture?

To think about

  1. Why might people get very upset by what others have or what they receive?
  2. How do we work out what is “fair” and “unfair”?
  3. To what extent do you agree with what Finney and Keller say?
  4. What would you like to add (if anything) to their suggestions?

The harvest is ready and there's no time to waste if the crop is to be gathered at the peak of perfection. It's not just a job for a few - it needs all hands on deck. Anyone who's available has a place on this team and will be duly rewarded for their work.

However much work they do and whenever they join the team, the reward is the same: it's exactly what the farmer has promised - no more, no less. Oh, and they will be paid in reverse order, too. By some standards it doesn't seem fair: those slaving in the heat of the day get no more than those who have come on board in the last hour.

Joining in with God’s work

  1. The vine was a powerful image of fruitfulness for people who depended on the land and sea for their very existence. What images of fruitfulness do we have today?
  2. The vine was also an image for God’s chosen people (Israel) – a fruitful people who would follow God’s leading and be blessed. What fruit does God expect of His church today?
  3. The labourers were all called to work in the vineyard as the landowner goes out to hire them (vv. 1, 3, 5, 6). What work is God calling us to?
  4. How does Philippians 2 verses 12 to 18 help us to understand what that work involves?

The story that Jesus tells in Matthew 20 reminds us that what matters is not our position or our benefits in the world of men but our position in the Kingdom of God. Taken from a human perspective, the events in the story seemingly indicate that God is more partial to some people than to others such that those who did an hour’s work (vv. 9) got the same as those who had started work a few hours before, and the same as those who had started at the beginning of the day (vv. 1, 2).

 What can we expect from God?

  1. How would you answer the charge that the rewards for the workers seem disproportionate at best and very unfair at worst?
  2. It’s very likely that the workers who were still in the marketplace at the 11th hour were those who rarely fund work probably for reasons of incapacity, illness or “uncleanliness”. Where might the church today judge by appearance or ability rather than by character or faith?
  3. What does this passage tell us about God’s Grace?
  4. How might our views on “fairness” be affected by our answer to question 2?
  5. Where could we apply the broader principles of this passage, teaching us about the Kingdom of God, to church life at GHBC?