All are welcome: in God’s economy we are rewarded with the gift of “life in all its fullness” and this is not based on what we do, how hard we work, or how duration of our work (Photograph provided)
Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God, and in doing so he proclaimed what that Kingdom looks like using multi-layered stories designed to shock his listeners.
He said, “You want to know what the Kingdom of God looks like? Well, let me tell you a story…” Each parable was a window into the nature of the Kingdom of God.
Take, for example, the parable found in Matthew 20:1-16. It is the story of a landowner who hires people to work in his vineyard. The owner hires workers throughout the day and the last workers are hired at 5 p.m. in the afternoon but at the end of the day they all receive the same salary. The workers who have worked all day are furious and the landowner asks, “You didn’t agree to work for the same salary? Am I not allowed to do whatever I want with my own money? am I generous? »
The parable is primarily about grace and is a lesson in God’s economy. You see, the human economy – the way of humans – is that we are rewarded according to merit. Our society is based on behavior and reward. If you work hard in school, you get the reward of your exam scores. People get what they deserve. If you eat all your vegetables, you can have dessert!
However, God’s economy is different. In God’s economy, we are rewarded with the gift of “life in all its fullness” and it is not based on what we do, how hard we work, or how long we work. We cannot win God’s favor and yet we often try to apply our human economy to God’s economy.
When Jesus was teaching, a group of religious leaders called the Pharisees were doing the same thing. They told people that if they were holy enough, the kingdom of God would come. However, Jesus turned this idea on its head and extended God’s grace to everyone, making it a point to include those who were marginalized, lost and unworthy.
In the story, the attitude of the winemakers was that they grumbled and had what is called “the evil eye”. It’s a Greek idiom meaning to be jealous, and from an earthly perspective they had every right to be, however, the vineyard owner kindly admonishes these workers, pointing out their poor attitude with a series of questions. rhetoric.
The landowner represents God and the questions highlight bad attitudes and bad behavior because God is free to do what he wants and God is generous to all. Faced with the grace of God, we who in history are represented by the winegrowers, should not be envious, but grateful to be welcomed into the Kingdom of God and to rejoice in the generosity of God.
In the Gospel accounts, Jesus often argued with the Pharisees who seemed obsessed with who was “in” and who was “out”, however, as Jesus later points out: “The first shall be last and the last shall be first”.
Jesus said drunkards, prostitutes, criminals, the poor, the broken, and the marginalized—those considered unworthy by society—would be first. No wonder it drove the Pharisees crazy!
Well, this parable got me thinking. If our church is to model the Kingdom of God, then take, for example, our Sunday worship: do we want toddlers screaming behind their backs? Do we want scruffy homeless people coming through the door? Do we want same-sex couples sitting together on the pews? Do we want people with a criminal record in our reception team? By God, yes we do!
What if we shape our worship, our gatherings and our meetings, to make them accessible to the “last and least” or those who have suffered or been marginalized by society? What if we molded the economy of the Kingdom—expanded grace—and molded for those who don’t deserve it? What if the church existed, not for its members but for its non-members?
If we tell this story to our churches, then we are faithful. We are the workers who have worked all day in the vineyard, and the winemaker thinks we are precious and needed us! We are essential to God’s mission and ministry here and now.
The vines would not have been picked without the laborers who were there all day and likewise our churches would not have been there without the faithful, hard work, time, money, labor, commitment and the sweat of generations of Christians.
Of course, our churches ensure that all of its members are loved, supported, nurtured and spiritually nourished – but we are also called to extend God’s grace to a suffering world. Will we, like the winegrowers who have worked all day, grumble and have the “evil eye”, or will we be grateful to be part of God’s family and rejoice that God and the church welcome and extend the grace of God to those who do not deserve it? – the poor, the broken, the marginalized and the messed up? Will we have an earthly perspective or a heavenly perspective? Are we supporting a human economy or God’s economy?
I leave you with the lyrics of this song:
Only by grace can we enter
Only by grace can we hold on
Not by our human effort
But by the blood of the Lamb
In your presence you call us,
You call us to come
In your presence you attract us
And now by Your grace we come
Now by Your grace we come
• Reverend Gavin Tyte is the pastor of St Mark’s Anglican Church. Visit stmarks.bm