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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Families, Prodigals and Turkeys [7]

As we continue to work through the "parable of the prodigal son", we have taken a short side trip to the "parable of the workers in the vineyard." 

We have a vineyard owner who has offered to pay a set fee for a days work. Workers have shown up at varying times and sent out into the fields to work. The day has now ended and it is time to pay the workers.

We pick up the story (Matthew 20) with Jesus speaking.

“Call the workers and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first. Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar.

When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’ [sound a little like our older brother, Dave Jr.?]

He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the ones who came last the same as you.

Can’t I do what I want with my money? Are you going to get stingy because I am so generous?’” (Matthew 20:9-15 The Message)

Keep in mind that Jesus is speaking to tax collectors and sinners, who were also Pharisees. Why is that important?

Pharisees were hyper-religious men who were full of their own sense of goodness. They hated tax collectors like Zacchaeus and Matthew. Whenever they saw a tax collector on the street, they would cross to the other side, call their names, spit and stomp their foot.... Ewww!

Jesus is trying to tell them (and us) that God the Father receives sinners. The Pharisees were trying to earn God’s acceptance, and Jesus was teaching them they needed God’s grace too.

You see, He is trying to explain something many people never get. No matter how much "doing" we do, it is God's grace that saves us.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't do. We do good because we have been given grace and we have faith, and this makes us want to do better.

For some of us, we are just like the older brother. We feel that we have known the Lord for years, and we have an overly proud sense of our own religious purity.

We have forgotten what it was like to be lost, and we start to think we deserve God’s blessings. We begin to think that it is God who owes us something!

God’s grace is available to anyone who comes to Him in repentance. We have discussed repentance before. It means to turn away, to go in the opposite direction.

Sadly, our houses of worship are full of Pharisees.

Time to check yourself: Am I one?

It is so easy to think about other people being Pharisees, but what about me? We have to stop and ask God to examine our hearts to see if there is even a shred of a Pharisaical spirit?

David prayed this same prayer in Psalm 139:23-24.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Well, what about you?


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