Reflections for the Week of Sunday September 24, 2017 Nineteenth after Pentecost

Gospel: Matthew 20.1-16 is Jesus’ parable of the laborers in the vineyard who work different periods but are paid the agreed upon wage equally, and protest that the owner is unfair because he did not pay more to those who had worked longer.

What is the meaning of this parable? The owner represents God who is paying the same wage for different amounts of work. Is this unfair? Perhaps one meaning of the parable is that God is sovereign – i.e., He makes the rules and chooses what He will do. If He chooses to reward people equally for different amounts of work, who are we humans to complain or criticize?  God is merciful to hire  the workers at all and especially to hire those who have not had jobs as the day goes on, and then He is especially gracious to pay them the same as the others. This may represent election or choosing certain people to be justified apart from their works. Another interpretation may depend on the fact that the workers only complain when they compare their wages with others. Some people in this life seem to be more fortunate than others. Should this bother us or should we each accept the ‘cards we are dealt’ without envy of the hands of others? N.T. Wright’s After You Believe speaks of living our lives in terms of Jesus’ teaching in our everyday life as a matter of habit. One of the most basic theological principles in the entire Scripture is God’s sovereignty. I am reminded of the humorous aphorism about the Golden Rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” God really has all the gold (as in this parable), so He can make the rules. Who are we to complain or criticize? How can we believe that we are being treated unfairly when God’s nature assures us that He loves us so much that He died for us and must want the very best for us because His very nature is love. We may not understand why we are dealt the hand we receive – how could we without knowing all things including the future? We are called to trust in His sovereign wisdom, love, omnipotence, and goodness even though we don’t know all the facts of life and our future. Christian virtue says that because of Jesus Christ there is a new way of being human based on grace through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It is grace and the Spirit that persuade us of God’s love and mercy and enable us to trust in Him regardless of circumstances. It is the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love that enable the Christian to submit his/her life to the sovereignty of God. Faith is trust; hope is the assurance that His love will bring good out of all circumstances; love is the basis of our assurance that God intends the very best for us regardless of appearances. These virtues and the fruit of the Spirit keep us focused on our own circumstances and our relationship with God  rather than comparing our circumstances with those of others. We don’t need to compare our lot with others or conclude that we are being treated unfairly compared with them. The Christian is not conscious of his own virtue of lack thereof; (s)he is focused on pleasing and trusting God and trying to grow into this attitude of trust and assurance that is the reflection of Christ in our lives. Instead of focusing on ourself, we focus on Him and our neighbor’s needs. This is what is meant by love, i.e., putting the needs of others ahead of our own, rather then self-centeredness. This is what Jesus came to demonstrate and to teach us what kind of nature in us is pleasing to God

Memory Verse: And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5.24).

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