Jesus tells the following story in Matthew.20…
1 “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 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. 6About 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?’”
Let’s be honest … we hate this story. If you’re anything like me, and I’m sure you are, then you read this story and think, “That’s not fair. That first guy worked so much harder than the last guy … he deserved to be paid more … it’s just basic business.”
But Jesus tells us this story to remind us that God, the Father, the Landowner, does not run his family business the way we do.
We think God runs the show like we would run it … those who do more, get more. Those who work harder, will get paid in the end. Those who put in the extra hour will succeed. The early bird gets the worm … right?
But in God’s land … in his vineyard … all are paid the same … all receive the same payment.
I don’t like this economic structure. I want my hard work to pay off. And honestly … I mean come one you’ve thought this … the reason I do work so hard is to get the pay off.
God’s world doesn’t work like this. And this doesn’t make much sense to us. In fact …we just change the story. We say things like, “If you do more for God then _______. If you tell more people about Jesus then ____________. If you serve more people then __________. If you pray more then __________. If you spend more time doing _________ then _________.
And God keeps saying at the end of the day … there’s only one payment … only one reward … Me.
I wonder how much time I miss out on my family because I think and believe that I have to do more for God to receive an ultimate reward?
I wonder how much goodness I miss because I’m trying to create some goodness?
I wonder how often I overlook and ignore God’s creations because I myself am too busy creating?
I wonder how much time I miss out on just enjoying the life God has given me because I think and believe that I have to do more for God to receive an ultimate reward?
I wonder how much guilt and shame I pour on those around me … those in my church … because I think and believe that they have to do more for God to receive an ultimate reward?
Is it possible that the reward is given not because of what I have done but because of how generous God is in the first place?
Is it possible that the point is not how much I can do for God but how much I can enjoy his generosity?
Very soon … like in the next week … take a break from doing, from producing, from creating, from working and just enjoy … enjoy your family, your spouse, your kids, one another. Encourage those in your church to take a break and just enjoy … enjoy God.
And know … know that the reward does not reflect your attempts or lack there of … but the reward reflects the giver of the reward … in fact the reward itself is the giver of the reward.