Matthew 20:1-16 – It Only Matters That You Are On The Court, Not How Long You Waited to Get In the Game…

Posted: February 15, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew
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Matthew 20:1-16
Jesus Tells the Parable of the Vineyard Workers
When I think of this parable, I kind of modernize it to some of the experiences I have had in life. Growing up as a Methodist preacher’s kid, you move a lot. New towns. New places. New churches. Have to start over again. Growing up I was pretty good basketball player because the countless hours that my brother and I would spend back then in the backyard playing basketball. My brother was always like 3 to 4 inches taller than me and still is. So I became a pretty good outside shooter in basketball. I could never drive inside on my brother because he would make it so hard for me to get a shot off over him. So I got pretty good at jump shots from outside. It served me well growing up. Always a good shooter for whatever team I played on. So this parable is kind of like that for me.

It’s kind of like moving to a new town and you are a really good basketball player but when you go try out for the youth team or high school team in the new town that there is already an established team in place and no one really knows your talent so they don’t consider you as a starter because you haven’t grown up in the town. You are an outsider. You are not part of the original crew. So, you do what you can. You play when you can. You know you’ve got the skills to be a starter but you just do what you can when you can. You contribute in whatever way you can. One day, you will get the chance to be on the court full-time. On that day, it will not matter how long you’ve been on the court full time. It will matter then only that you are on the court. When the time comes, you will be on the court. It will not matter if you have been playing with your teammates since you were kids, it will matter that you are on the court and in the game. Regardless of how long you’ve been playing the game, when you are on the court none of that matters. You are in the game and on the court. In that light, let’s read Matthew 20:1-16 together:

 

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

 

This parable teaches a whopping big lesson in what it means to be a Christian. It does not matter when you come to the game of salvation, it only matters that you get to be on the court. There is no difference to the Lord that you came to the game later than others, it only matters that you came to game. When you boil it down to the barest essence, none of us deserve to be in the vineyard of God no matter how long we have been there. One minute of salvation is the same as 50 years of salvation. We are all just sinners saved by grace.

To continue with the basketball analogy, some of us got on the court late in the game. But you know, the box scores will show that we were in the game. Our minutes played may not be the same as those who were in the game from the tip-off, but it will show that we were in the game. It is the same with salvation. One minute saved is the same as someone who is in their late forties and has been saved since they were seven years old. Sure, there are maturity issues that are different between the one who has been saved since seven years old and the one who has been saved for seven minutes. Sure, the long-time Christian may be more mature and can discern that which is of God and that which is not better than the seven minute Christian, but the only difference between the two is the fact that the Holy Spirit has been at work longer in the more mature Christian than the infant Christian. Both the infant Christian and the mature Christian are constantly in need of grace. We are all sinners in need of grace. We all sin. Mature Christians are better at identifying sin as sin but we still sin all of us. The one thing that we all have in common is our need for grace. We all need the covering of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for us. On our own, we deserve nothing whether we have just walked out of a life of sin or have been saved for years and years. What matters is that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We should celebrate those who come to Christ in the eleventh hour as much or more than we celebrate those who have been saved for decades. We should encourage those who have been saved for minutes to join right in there with those who have been saved for years working in the vineyard. Our wage will be the same no matter how long we have been saved. When we pass on into eternity, it will matter not how long that we have been saved, it will matter only that we are. Same wage no matter how long you have been working the vineyard. We are all to celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ saved us from an eternity separated from God. We celebrate the victory of living in the presence of God for eternity. We celebrate being there.

There are those who think that because they have been in church and have been saved for years and years that there is some hierarchy to this thing. You’ve only been saved for two years. I’ve been saved for twenty. You’ve only been saved for fifteen years. I’ve been saved for fifty. Some of us get jealous when we see those who have been saved less time than us move into positions of visibility within a church and think that they don’t deserve it because we have been here longer. We should rather celebrate that they are using their talents that God has given them rather than being jealous of them. We should seek our own ways of using our talents for the glory of God rather than being jealous of others because they are younger in the faith. Also, we should not hold those back who are following their calling just because they have not been in this church business as long as we have. Just because a person hasn’t been working for Christ as long as we have should not cause us to hold others back from expressing their faith through service to the Lord in the talents that God has called them to use. Just because someone got into the game later than we did doesn’t mean we should deny them the ball and only pass to those who have been in the game as long as we have. We should seek out those new in the faith and develop their skills so that they can be future leaders. If a new believer has the skills of hospitality, we should push them toward that. If a newer believer has the skills of preaching, we should encourage and push them toward that. If a new believer has skills that makes him or her great with young people and children, we should encourage them to do that. If a new believer has great skills of writing about God’s Word, we should encourage that. We should help the new believer identify their giftedness and push and encourage and challenge them toward that. We should never hold them back from using their giftedness just because they are younger in the faith than we are. I think we all have been in churches where there was a hierarchy of service. Older Christians did not trust new Christians to handle responsible positions in the church. We’ve all been there and done that. Let us not be that church. Let us be the church that encourages the evangelist to be the evangelist. Let us encourage the teacher to be the teacher. Let’s encourage the prophets to be prophets. Let’s encourage the apostles to be apostles. Let’s encourage the pastors to be pastors. Let us encourage all to follow their individual callings and push and challenge them. Let us not pigeon hole people into areas of service just because of the newness of their salvation. The body of Christ is edified by all of us being encouraged to follow their giftedness in the faith as Paul instructs us in Ephesians 4:11-16. Let us never be a church that makes man-made decisions as to who can do what and when they can do it. Help us to be a church that pushes our people to become what God has called them to be. Let us challenge our faith babies to step up and step out in faith. Let us provide our faith babies with the same opportunities that use their giftedness that we were given. No matter if you have been at this for 20 years and they have been at it for 2 years. Encourage. Challenge. Get them on the court and into the game.

Father, help us to be a church that expands by multiplication of the gifts that we have all been given. Help us to not smother opportunities for those new in the faith to express their God-given talents. Help us to support, nuture, guide, challenge, and lead those younger in the faith into opportunities to use their talents. Help us to recognize talent and use it in our local bodies. Help us to encourage that talent and train that talent. Help us to celebrate and not hold it back. Help us to unleash the floodgates of talented Christ followers so that the world is flooded with those who seek to glorify you in a world that needs it desperately. The harvest is great and the workers are too few for us to hold new believers back just because they have not been here as long as us. Help us also to remember that that the only difference between a new believer and us is time/maturity. We both still need grace because we both still sin. We both need Jesus every day. We both are sinners covered in his grace. It does not matter than they have only been in the game a short time. We both need grace. Amen and Amen.

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