For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure …. Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world. Philippians 2:13, 15
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and to those he said, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day long?” They said to him, “Because no one hired us.” He said to them, “You go into the vineyard too.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.” When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.” But he answered and said to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” So the last shall be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:1-16
Today’s thoughts from today’s verses:
This week we are looking each day at a passage that will help us understand better the “work” of the mission God calls us to fulfill. In addition, we are looking each day at a portion of a story from Matthew 20 that will help us understand better the dynamic of “grace” that permeates the true mission of God in this broken world of ours. In a very general sense “work” is what we do with our lives. Each person is busy either doing the work of living for themselves or living for God. Our Philippians 2 passage uses the word “pleasure.” So, we can say each person is busy either working for their own pleasure or for God’s pleasure. We were created for God’s pleasure but we naturally live for our own pleasure. In order to reverse this, God intervened through His
Son, Jesus Christ. Isaiah 53 says, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him.”
The very first thing that brings God pleasure is our return to him (there is no one who does not need to return). As we see from Isaiah 53 it is Christ’s sacrifice for our sins that facilitates our return. Our return brings us back into to a full relationship with God. The second thing that brings God pleasure and glory is the intimacy of the love relationship he is able to begin sharing with us upon our return. The third thing that brings God pleasure and glory is the transformation he is able to bring about in our lives through the intimate love relationship he shares with us. The fourth thing that brings God pleasure and glory is the blessing our lives become to other people as he manifests himself through us and uses us to reach and touch other people for him.
Our Philippians 2 passage speaks of all this as the will and work of God and we must work with him and not against him. What amazing words: “For it is God who is at work in you.” So, whenever you get caught up in living for yourself and your own pleasure, you are working against God and the outcome of having a life that is truly lived for his pleasure. When you cooperate with the work of God consistently over the long haul, you will, in the words of our Philippians 2 passage, “Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”
Here is something for you to write on a 3×5 card: RETURN + INTIMACY + TRANSFORMATION + BLESSING = GOD’S PLEASURE. Carry the card with you and review it on a regular basis. It can be a great tool to help you keep focused and stay on track. For today, think about this equation and what each part really means to you. Talk to God about where you are and where you need to head. Remember, he is at work in you. Get in touch with him and join him in all that he seeking to do in and through you. There is no greater work we can do than working toward the outcome of having a life that is truly lived for God’s pleasure.
Our theme this week is “God’s mission of Grace” and it is our Matthew 20 passage that is helping us better understand the centrality of grace in God’s mission. Jesus, who has come representing the true kingdom of heaven, is telling this story to counter the oppressive religious system of the day. He begins the story be telling his listeners that they will see what the true kingdom of heaven is like through what the landowner does. After hiring laborers at the start of the day for a full day’s work at a full day’s wage, we saw yesterday that, unconventionally, the landowner went back and hired additional laborers at the third, sixth, and ninth hours. In today’s highlighted portion of the story we see that the landowner went back about the eleventh hour and rounded up even more laborers to work in his vineyard.
None of the laborers hired after the first ones would be able to put in a full day’s work. The landlord is being gracious by hiring these laborers that no one else would hire. We have equated the landlord with God and the first set of laborers we equated with the adherents of the religious
system of the day (represented by the scribes and Pharisees who Jesus collided with over and over again). As we noted yesterday, this religious system is devoid of grace. It knows only oppressive religious practice. We equated the full day’s work with full compliance with this oppressive religious system. We equate all the late hires with those who fell short of complying with the oppressive requirements of the religious system of the day.
The kingdom of heaven is about a gracious God who extends grace to all. The kingdom of heaven is all about grace and not about measuring up. There is more to our story and much more about grace (Thursday and Friday). Yes, we work in God’s vineyard so to speak and we join him in his mission of grace to the world. But we must remain deeply aware that apart from God’s amazing grace we would still be outside of the vineyard. And so as ones who are on the inside seeking to reach those who are still on the outside, it is incumbent upon us to have hearts and lives that are permeated by and exude the amazing grace of God.
Today’s prayer response from today’s thoughts:
Lord, thank you for your gracious intervention. I am grateful for my return to you. What a wonder it is to be welcomed back into your arms of love. Help me to abide in your presence. Continue to change me from the inside out. As one who has been welcomed into your vineyard by grace, use my life as a beacon of light and a fragrance of grace that helps others find you. I know you will help me go forward living fully for your pleasure and your pleasure alone. Amen!