Devotional Thoughts on Matthew 20:1-16
February 23 – March 1, 2015
Monday, February 23, 2015
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1).
Wow, what a picture of heaven! There are no pearly gates, fluffy clouds, or gold streets. Nor are there feasts and celebrations going on wherever a person looks. There is no mention the absence of sickness, death, pain or suffering. Instead heaven is pictured as a place to work. The landowner went out looking for laborers.
The idea of heaven as a place of work is not the main point of this parable, but it is still good news for us. Part of heaven is this side of death. We can experience God’s gracious and loving movement in our lives in the here and now. The kingdom of heaven also includes using our gifts and talents in service to God—doing God’s will.
This picture of heaven may not be as flashy as fluffy clouds or feasts, but it is certainly practical and real. Heaven is living in a relationship with God, seeking to be faithfully obedient to God’s will, and opening our lives up to be used by the Holy Spirit. Heaven is a nice place to be.
Living God, Thank you for giving us new life through Jesus Christ. Enable us to live in the reality of that new life today and in the days ahead. Amen.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
“He sent them into his vineyard” (Matthew 20:2).
Good old honest, hard work sometimes doesn’t get the appreciation that it should. Most of us find some opportunity during the day to complain about something related to our work: Our boss is too hard, we don’t get paid enough and one of our co-workers is difficult to work with. All of this may be true, but there are also some things for which to be thankful about our work.
Work is usually the main means that God uses to provide for our daily needs. Work is a way for us to use our gifts and talents. Often times our work is the way that we can serve others.
There isn’t a verse in the Bible that says work in bad. Several verses praise work. The one thing that the Bible does do is warn against being addicted to work. The third commandment calls us to remember a day of rest and to use that day for what it was created for—rest.
Gracious God, Thank you for the gift of work. May you provide work for those who are unemployed or underemployed that we all may work to your glory. Amen.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
“’Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard and work’” Matthew 20:7).
The hour was late and no one had hired the men. We can imagine how their hearts were sinking along with the setting sun. They lived a hand to mouth existence. Each day they would use the money from their labor to buy food for their families. While they waited—hope almost extinguished—they rehearsed what they would say to their wives and children when they walked through the door empty handed.
When all hope was almost lost, the landlord saw them and set them to work. They must have been happy beyond measure. They wouldn’t have much, but at least they wouldn’t come home with nothing.
There are times when we almost run out of hope. Discouragement and despair claw at our hearts and minds. Things are beyond our control and we can only turn to the Lord and wait upon God. God does not forsake us. God provides for us and protects us. God embraces us with God’s love and calms our troubled hearts.
God of Abundance, Thank you for your protection and provision. Help us to keep our eyes on you and not fear, trusting that you continue to hold us in your hands. Amen.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
“When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage” (Matthew 20:9).
It is common to complain about how scarce things are in life. In fact, we complain so much about what we don’t have that we forget to celebrate what we do have.
The workers in the parable who worked only one hour were able to rejoice at the abundance of their wages. They were able to go home with their hands full of food for their families. The other workers would be able to do the same.
We can praise God that, like the workers in the parable—God provides us with our daily bread. We can celebrate God’s steadfast love, unconditional forgiveness and overwhelming grace. We can give thanks for the people we have in our lives—those who love us, support us and pray for us. Look around! There are literally hundreds of ways that God’s abundance is demonstrated in our lives and as many reasons to give God thanks and praise. Pay day comes every day of our lives.
Loving Lord, forgive our complaints and receive our praise. Amen.
Friday, February 27, 2015
“And when they received it they grumbled against the land owner” (Matthew 20:11).
When my siblings and I were small, we had to receive the same amount of Christmas gifts or we would declare that things were fair. We would count the gifts before we started opening them. The size of the piles of gifts needed to be roughly the same, too. Comparing what we received with what the other kids received blinded us to the love of our parents. We didn’t see the sacrifice that they had made in order that we could get what we wanted on Christmas.
It is true that the laborers worked long and hard for the wages they received. But their labor gave them enough money to provide food for their families. They could have celebrated that fact. Instead, they compared what they received with others. Such thoughts made them bitter and withered any ideas of giving thanks.
How often we act like the workers in the parable. We compare what we have received with others. Usually we compare what we received with those who have more than us rather than measure our possessions with those who have less than us. Life suddenly becomes unfair. Our words are filled with complaints rather than praise. We can learn a lesson from the laborers in the parable. Rather than grumble we can receive what the landowner gives us with open hands and words of thanks.
Almighty God, We are thankful for all that you have given us. May our thankfulness overflow to all areas of our lives and may you provide us with opportunities for us to share our gifts with others. Amen.
Saturday, February 28, 2015
“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me’ (Matthew 20:15)?
When we went to grade school our parents would often put our names on our jackets, boots, lunch boxes and pencil holders. There were many children in the school each had jackets, boots, lunch boxes and pencil holders. Having our name on the items kept us from losing our possessions. Name labels also kept us from taking something that was not ours.
It is regrettable that the items of our lives don’t come with name tags. If they did we’d be surprised. Instead of seeing our name wherever we looked, we would see God’s. All that we have has been given to us by God. The name tags don’t change when we receive the item. They still remain God’s. We simply get to borrow them, enjoy them, share them and make sure that we give them back to God at the appropriate time.
The landowner had to remind the laborers that the money he distributed to the laborers was his. He could do with it what he wanted to. Like the laborers we too need to be constantly reminded that what we have been given is God’s.
Generous God, Forgive us when we become overly possessive of what you give us. Remind us that what we have is yours—a gift and a sign of your love. Amen.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).
Amusement parks are enjoyed by millions of people. They like the rides, the food and the shows. What they don’t like is waiting in line for to experience the ride, and a universal pet peeve is a line jumper. What will we do in God’s kingdom when line jumping—the last becoming the first—is the rule of the land?
The kingdom of God is filled with role reversals. The outcasts are included while the insiders find themselves on the outside. There are no Gentiles or Jews, men or women, masters or slaves, gays or striaghts, we’re all one. And of course the first shall be last and the last first. We don’t know all of the reasons for the first becoming the last, but one is to help them realize the privilege they enjoy and take for granted.
While waiting in line for a popular ride, a young man was brought to the head of the line—a line jumper. No one seemed to care, though. The young man was a veteran. He had a prosthetic leg and had obviously sustained a brain injury. The line parted to let him through and several hands help him onto the ride. The last became first and no one was angry. We all got to experience the ride anyway.
Loving Lord, Often we are the ones who are first. Empower us that we may gladly give up our place for those who are last, so that together we can experience you kingdom today. Amen.