‘[Jesus said] ‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard […] And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner [.He replied] Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’’ Matthew 20:1,11,14-16
Brothers and sisters, I guess every parent has been there! The fear and the panic when you can’t see your child. And then, the joy and the celebration when you find your child again. It was a warm day and an extended family were having a BBQ in the garden. The kids were playing in the garden, and the adults were drinking and chatting round the BBQ. But then came the panic. Panic when one little boy, Bobbie, couldn’t be found. Immediately, of course, everyone stopped what they were doing and spread out. Some searched the house, some the garden, and some headed to the fields. It was two ladies out for a walk in the park who found him. They weren’t part of the family and didn’t know him, but seeing a small boy on his own they asked him if he was ok and then brought him home. Of course the parents and family were overjoyed, and immediately invited the ladies in, and the BBQ turned into a party to celebrate and thank the two ladies. Nobody complained that the family had been out for hours looking for Bobby. And the ladies had simply stumbled over him, and taken just 5 minutes to walk him home. The amount of effort didn’t matter. Bobby was home. Credit didn’t come into it. It was all about the love for the one who was lost, and the joy of having Bobbie home.
There are similarities with today’s reading and the story I just told of Bobbie and his family. What is God like, v1: ‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard.’ God is like a landowner who goes Himself to the market place to look for workers. He goes out early because He is so set on His mission. He doesn’t have a lie-in, and He doesn’t send His foreman! God goes Himself to find people to work in His vineyard. And notice God doesn’t just make one trip! God doesn’t just hire the bare minimum, God keeps on going, keeps on searching, keeps on hiring. God is a terrible business man… and an amazing employer. A terrible business man because He pays far more than the normal daily rate, and hires far too many people to do the work. But God is an amazing employer because He acts out of love for His employees. God acts not out of duty, or desire to be recognised, or a compulsion to be seen as better than everyone else. No, God in Jesus acts out of love, not for credit.
What are God’s people to be like? Well, just like God, in that they are to work out of love not for credit! Let me tell you another story. There were four brothers who jointly inherited their parents home, and sadly one day a fire started. The two brothers who were at home immediately leapt off the sofa and started to put the fire out. The fire had a good hold though as they rang their third brother who was at work. He jumped into his car and thirty minutes later arrived home joining in with fighting with fire. One of the neighbours rang the fourth brother, but he was away with work in another city, and though he ran to his car it took him three hours to get home. That night the four brothers sat down on the sofa tired, wet, and smelling of smoke, and yet celebrating for they had saved their house. Do you think for a minute that the two brothers who had been home started trying to claim the most credit? No, of course not. Their beloved home was in flames and together they rescued it. It didn’t matter who had done most work, what mattered was they saved the house!! They saved their home out of love, not for credit. And, that is what it is meant to be like for Christians serving God in His mission to reach the world. But too often it’s not like that is it? Often we are more like the workers in Jesus’ story. Have a look at v9:
‘When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner.’
How often do we look round and see how we’re doing compared to everyone else? How often do we compare our work with others, and get grumpy or complain if someone else is rewarded? Too often we enjoy looking down on others. Thinking to ourselves that we’ve done more, and so deserve more credit. But that’s crazy when you think about it. We get to serve God. Being a Christian is a free gift, it is all of grace. It is a privilege to be a Christian. It is a privilege to know God, and to be loved by Him. It is a privilege to be given the most important message in the world - the Gospel - and be given the task of sharing that with the world. Just like those searching for Bobbie credit shouldn’t even come into it! It’s about love for those who are lost. Just like fighting the fire, credit shouldn’t come into it, it’s about saving the building. As we look around our nation in the 21st century there are plenty of people who are lost and need to be found. As we look at the Church in the 21st century the house is on fire with the numbers leaving. We are not to concern ourselves, with who gets paid what, with who gets the credit. Rather we’re to unite together, and get on with the mission. We have chosen for a mission: to help save the lost, and to help fight the spiritual fire which is bringing down the Church. The only way we can do this, is if we follow God’s example, and serve out of love, not for credit. Let us, then, rededicate ourselves to the mission for which we have be chosen. Let us pray for those who are lost, and seek ways to rebuild God’s Church. Amen. (from Rev. Mike)