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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Start:Stop - A life of significance in his kingdom work

Bible Reading

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, 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. The landowner replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. (Matthew 20. 1 – 16)


The social situation in Jesus’ day was that many small farmers were being forced off their land because of debt they incurred to pay Roman taxes. Consequently, large pools of unemployed men gathered each morning, hoping to be hired for the day. They were the displaced, unemployed, and underemployed workers of their day, similar to illegal migrants seeking casual work today. Those still waiting at five o'clock would have had little chance of earning enough to buy food for their families that day. Yet the vineyard owner pays even them a full day’s wage. The owner in the parable ensures that all the workers are paid enough to support their families, as a denarius was a full day’s pay for a skilled worker.

So, unlike exploited illegal workers or gig economy workers today earning less than the minimum wage, the employer in this story is concerned that those he employs are paid a living wage. The landowner goes repeatedly to the marketplace himself and clearly cares about the predicament of the workers seeking to lift them out of their despair by providing work that meets their needs and the needs of those who depend on them. If God is like the owner of the vineyard then he cares about our hopeless situation as human beings. He comes looking for us. He goes on an all-out search to find workers for his vineyard. He longs to provide us with a life of significance in his kingdom work.

Michael Green says of this story: 'Length of service and long hours of toil in the heat of the day constitute no claim on God and provide no reason why he should not be generous to those who have done less. All human merit shrivels before his burning, self-giving love. Grace, amazing grace, is the burden of this story. All are equally undeserving of so large a sum as a denarius a day. All are given it by the generosity of the employer. All are on the same level. The poor disciples, fishermen and tax collectors as they are, are welcomed by God along with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There are no rankings in the kingdom of God. Nobody can claim deserved membership of the kingdom. There is no place for personal pride, for contempt or jealousy, for there is no ground for any to question how this generous God handles the utterly undeserving. He is good. He sees that the one-hour workers would have no money for supper if they got paid for only one hour. In generosity he gives them what they need. Who is to complain at that?'

Yet there is always a danger that we do get cross with God over this. People who work or move in church circles can easily assume that they are the special ones, God’s inner circle. In reality, as we have seen, God is out in the marketplace, looking for the people everybody else tried to ignore, welcoming them on the same terms, surprising them (and everybody else) with his generous grace. In Ephesians 2:8-10 Paul says, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Is there anywhere in today’s church, I wonder, that doesn’t need to be reminded of that message?


O God, the Creator of all things, you have made us in your own image so that we may find joy in creative work: have mercy on all those who are unemployed, and those who find their work dull. Help us to build a society where all may have work and find joy in doing it, for the good of our world and the glory of your name. We thank you that you seek us out and provide us with a life of significance in your kingdom work.

O God, who made us in your image and intended us for creative work; look with love on those who are unemployed. Help them to enjoy life together with those who have work and help us to understand what kind of help we need to give one another, whether in paid employment or not. Guide the leaders of our country, that they may take wise decisions which will benefit us all. We ask you Lord to guide us in the knowledge that we all have worth in ourselves and that we are all of equal value in your eyes. We thank you that you seek us out and provide us with a life of significance in your kingdom work.

Lord God, you lavish gifts on all whom you call. Strengthen and sustain us and all ministers of your church, lay and ordained, that in the range and diversity of our vocation, we may be catalysts of your kingdom in the world. We thank you that you seek us out and provide us with a life of significance in your kingdom work.

The Blessing

O Lord, my God, may the work we do bring growth in this life to us and help extend the Kingdom of Christ. We ask your blessing on all our efforts. With Christ as our example and guide, help us do the work You have asked and come to the reward You have prepared. And the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon us and remain with us always. Amen.


Gerald Finzi - My Lovely One.

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