Isn’t human nature interesting? It doesn’t matter how good of a deal we get, if someone else gets a better deal than us – we’re not usually happy about it, are we?
For example, let’s say that you decided to buy a brand new truck, and being the shrewed negotiator that you are, you manage to convince the dealer to sell you the truck for $10,000 less than what it’s really worth. You’d be pretty pleased with the deal you got, right?
But then, what if, after you got your truck and you’re feeling great about the deal you got – what if you found out that your friend went to that same dealer and got the exact same truck for $5000 less than what you paid?
Now be honest: Would you be happy that your friend got such a good deal – or would you be upset that you had to pay $5000 more than he did?
Seconds ago you were very pleased with the deal you got – now you’re upset over the same deal!
So why is that? Why is it that no matter how well things are going for us, if someone else seems to have something better, we get jealous and envious?
Well, Jesus once told a parable that addresses this very issue. This is one of those “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…. This” stories. It’s found in Matthew chapter 20. And I want to read that for you today. Starting in verse 1, Jesus begins the story like this…
“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.
3 “At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. 4 So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. 5 So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.
6 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’
7 “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’
“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’
8 “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. 9 When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage.10 When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. 11 When they received their pay, they protested to the owner,12 ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’
13 “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? 14 Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you.15 Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’
And that’s where Jesus ends the story. It’s quite a pointed question at the end, isn’t it? Very applicable to us… In fact, this story illustrates exactly the problem that we’ve been talking about.
So let’s walk through the story and point out a couple things along the way.
The story begins with a man going out and hiring a few men to spend the day working in his vineyard. Now that in itself was a quite a blessing to these men. Back then it would be very common not to have a regular job that you go to every day, but rather, you would get hired on a day-by-day basis. All the men looking for work would gather and hang out in the marketplaces hoping to get hired for the day by a local farmer or businessmen so that they would be able to buy food for their families. Of course, there was no guarantee of work – and thus no guarantee of pay that day.
So the fact that these men were hired at all on this day was already a blessing. I imagine these fellows would have been quite pleased to earn a days wage. There would have been many men who wouldn’t get the chance to work and earn anything that day. So these guys would have been pretty happy to have been hired by this vineyard owner.
If that’s where the story ended, I’m sure these men would have eagerly worked all day and then gone home with their money – very happy they were hired and very satisfied with their wages.
But of course, that’s not where the story ends. It just so happened that the vineyard owner traveled through the market several times throughout that day – at 9:00am, at noon, at three, and even at 5:00pm – and each time he finds men standing around doing nothing – so he offers them all a chance to work in his vineyard that day – even if it’s only for an hour or so.
So here we are, at the end of the day and everyone is getting paid. We have guys who have put in a full 12 hour day – and we have guys who have only worked an hour or so. Yet everyone gets paid the same wage. How would you react – if you were one of the guys who worked hard all day in the hot sun – and you get paid the same amount as the guys who only worked for an hour? Likely, you would react the same way as the men in the story did! There would be grumbling and complaining. You would likely feel a little bit resentful to both the owner as well as the other workers.
But now put yourself in the other guy’s shoes – the guy who only worked for an hour. You spent most of the day looking for work – but no one has hired you. It’s 5:00 o’clock now, and your family is back home and they’re going to be hungry. You’ve got bills to pay. What are you going to do?
Well, along comes this vineyard owner and offers to hire you for this last hour of the day. It’s not much, but better than nothing! At least an hour’s worth of wages might buy you a little bit of food.
So you go to the vineyard and work for an hour – but when the wages come around, you get a full days wage! How do you react then? You were only expecting to get a single hour’s wage – and you get a full days wage instead. I’m pretty sure these guys would have been filled with gratitude! I think they would have been shocked and amazed at the generosity of the vineyard owner.
And that, I believe, is the point of this parable. According to this parable, the kingdom of heaven is not about giving people what they deserve, it’s not about working hard and earning anything – The kingdom of heaven is all about a God who is completely and utterly generous!
Is that how we see God? As being completely and utterly generous? I think in reality, sometimes we see God as being a bit stingy – a bit reluctant to give.
Certainly, that’s the picture that Satan would paint for us. That’s exactly what He did with Adam & Eve in the garden of Eden. He painted God as being stingy and withholding good things from Adam & Eve. Remember? Genesis 3 – verse 1.
“The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
You see how Satan was painting a picture of a God who was holding back good things from Adam & Eve. In this picture God wasn’t generous – the focus wasn’t on all the amazing fruit trees that God had provided for them all over the garden – the focus was on the one tree that God told them not to eat from. Apparently, God was keeping all that goodness to Himself – not sharing it with Adam & Eve!
Satan says “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” The implication is that God doesn’t want your eyes to be opened. God doesn’t want you to be like God. God’s holding you back! He’s keeping you from this good thing!
And of course, Adam & Eve bought the lie. And I think sometimes, so do we.
Sometimes in our prayers it sounds like we’re begging God to show us just a little bit kindness. “Please God, I know you don’t want to, but would you please answer my prayer….” Or when we sin – “God, I know you’re angry with me, but if you could just forgive me just this once…”
We imagine God to be so reluctant to answer our prayers. Reluctant to forgive us. Reluctant to provide for us. But that’s completely a lie from Satan.
The God described in the Bible is completely and utterly generous! He is eager to give us all that we need and so much more!
The word generous is actually defined liked this: It’s “showing a readiness to give more of something than is strictly necessary or expected.” Think about that for a second.
As you look at the God that Jesus characterizes in this parable of the vineyard owner – Doesn’t this God show a readiness to give more of something than is strictly necessary or expected? Absolutely.
Think of all that God has generously given to you. This morning, you woke up in a warm bed in a warm house. In your fridge and in your cupboards were all kinds of good food. Many of you had a hot cup of coffee to start the day. Perhaps you had a hot shower. You put on clean clothes and came here to meet with all kinds of good friends. Perhaps after church you’ll enjoy a big meal with your family. I could go on for a long, long time about all the good things that God has given us – not because they are necessary – but simply because God loves to give us good things.
And I’ve only mentioned just a few of our physical blessings. If you really want to see the generosity of God, look at Ephesians 1:3-8. Paul writes this:
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”
There is a lot of stuff in there that should just blow your mind!? I love verse 5 where it says – “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
God loves to love us! It gives Him great pleasure to be kind to us – to provide for us – to care for us – to adopt us into His family. How can we possibly think that God is reluctant to give us any good thing? That’s like saying Grandma and Grandpa are reluctant to give toys and candies to their grandkids! That’s just not how it works. Our God loves to be generous towards us.
That’s probably a good thing to keep in mind when God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers in the way we think He should. It’s not that he’s delaying or even saying no because he doesn’t like us – or doesn’t want us to have good things. But rather, God knows what’s best for us and he wants what’s best for us – and so sometimes, he says no or delays answering to bring about something even better than what we’re praying for.
It’s kinda like how we sometimes say no to our children’s requests sometimes – not because we don’t love them – but because we know that 7 hours of tv or 18 tubs of candy ultimately aren’t what’s best for our kids. So we say no because we love them and want the best for them!
Same thing for God. He truly does love us and He wants us to ultimately have and experience what’s best for us.
Psalm 23 is probably the most famous and most quoted of all the psalms. It’s a psalm written by King David – and I think, judging by this psalm, that David understood the goodness and the generosity of God. It goes like this:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. 3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. 4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. 6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”
Do you and I share David’s understanding of who God is? Is this how you would describe your relationship with God?
Is your God a God who gives you everything you need. Who leads you into rest. Who protects and comforts you. Who prepares a feast for you – right in the midst of your enemies! Who pursues you – who chases you down with goodness and unfailing love.
Does that describe your God?
If not – man, you’re missing out! Because that is the One True God. If that doesn’t describe your God, then you’ve been deceived about who God is.
I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with God – and maybe some of you might not have any kind of relationship with God at all. Maybe you’ve been coming to church for a while and you’re starting to get a good handle on what this Christianity business is all about. Maybe you’ve heard quite a few Bible stories.
But maybe you’ve never actually put your trust in God – maybe you’ve never acknowledged Him as your Lord and Savior?
And the reason for that could be that you’ve been deceived about who God is. Because in my mind – and maybe this is just me – but if there is a God of the universe who loves me like crazy – who decided before the beginning of time to adopt me into his family, who cares and provides and protects me like a Good Shepherd, and who is ready and eager to give me so much more than what is needed or expected… I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of God that I want to be my Lord and Savior!
If you have never asked that God to be your God – what’s stopping you? Why would you not choose even today to accept Him as your Lord and Saviour!
If you haven’t been convinced by the parable that Jesus told of the generous vineyard owner, and if you haven’t been convinced by the testimony of Paul in Ephesians, and if you haven’t been convinced by David’s psalm about the Good Shepherd – then perhaps this last passage will have what it takes to convince you.
It goes like this…
“For God so loved the world, that He gave….”
Pause there. That’s all we need to know. “For God so loved the world, that He gave….” There’s the generosity of God – He loved every one of us so much that He gave… gave us what?
“…his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV
God wants to give us life. He wants to give us forgiveness. He wants to give us second chances. He wants to give us an extended family called the church. He wants to give us an eternal home. He wants to give us hope.
Our God is so completely generous that He wants to give us everything – In fact, He has already given His life for us. And like the men hired at the last hour, we certainly haven’t done anything to earn it. God simply chose to be lavishly generous towards us.
I would implore you this morning to accept the gift that God wants to give you. Choose today to put your trust in this utterly generous God and in his Son, Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for you.