Septuagesima Sunday (2014)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
February 16, 2014
Central Passage
Matthew 20:1-16

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

A vineyard is for making wine. And wine is for making glad the hearts of men (Psalm 104:15). The kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a vineyard. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who’s heart is set on making glad the hearts of men.

So why are we so miserable? If the Lord means to make us glad as when grain and wine abound, why are we so often so despondent? We put on smiles like a coat: only to cover us from looking cold. We are chipper and cheer when need be, but we are not truly joyful. We laugh and smile and say things like, “But, what’re you gonna do about it?” when things go askew, but when we’re alone, or with close friends or confidants, we are not so cheerful and content. So much the less are we cheerful and content when we’re alone with God.

The apostle James says that we’re miserable because we only ask for things to spend them on our passions. (James 4:3) And our passions are insatiable. We want money, but how much is enough? Liar. You’ve had run through your hands in your life time millions of dollars. But it’s not enough. We want the affections of a beautiful woman, but how much is enough? Liar. It doesn’t matter how often your wife has loved you, you are disappointed when she has not. No matter how good your husband is, you always find something wrong. Our greed and self-absorption is unparalleled. All the more when we think we deserve better than we have or when we think we’ve earned more than we get.


All that you have is a gift. Your heavenly Father gives you your daily bread and all that you need to support this body and life. The gifts of your heavenly Father are innumerable and vast. But we greedy sinners want to be able to count them and horde them and make sure they’re all accounted for. And we prove ourselves the sinner when we don’t count as gifts the things of creation, but these were created for us, that we would care for them. But we want our gifts to be ours and ours alone; we want our gifts to care for us and to do something for us. And if we have to share … well that’s like getting one toy on Christmas to be shared by three kids.

But the one that gives that gift is glad to have given it. Gift giving brings joy to the giver, which is why little children go through so much trouble to make over-glued Valentines’ Day cards and birthday cards on construction paper. They don’t care that it might not be the latest fashion or most trendy gift. They find joy in giving. They find joy in their mom and dad’s smiles and happiness, expecting nothing in return but welcoming hugs and a “thank you”. The giver is more blessed than the receiver. Shame on us when we give with our eyes only on our reward for giving. If that is why we give – to get better than we have – then we have received our reward in full.

It is more blessed to give than to receive, [our Lord says. (Acts 20:35)] But not if your eye is on what you will receive for having given what you’ve given. That’s where the disciples were when Jesus told the parable about the Vineyard Owner. They were wondering what they were going to get for having left everything to follow Jesus. They gave it all; now what were they going to get for it? (Matthew 19:27)

That’s how we think. We give our money, our time, our talents to the church – to this congregation – or to our family. We’ve served. What do we get in return? Thanks would be nice. But praise would be better. Do we not deserve to be raised up among our brothers and sisters for what we’ve given and done than those who have not given or done as much? Don’t we deserve things in proportion to our giving?

Not in the kingdom of heaven.

In the kingdom of heaven the first are last and the last are first. In the kingdom of heaven it is more blessed to give than to receive. And that’s the work of us laborers in the vineyard. The work in the kingdom of heaven is to give, not to receive.

You received mercy and grace when you were hired and put in the vineyard to work, when the Lord called you to come and work for Him. You needed salvation, so the Lord of the harvest plucked you out of hell and placed you in His vineyard where you serve Him by giving Him thanks and by loving others. The work is not to grow His vineyard. That’s His job and only He can hire more and call more and add to the number of those saved, of those that sit in the pews. Our job, as it were, is to give. It is to love.

It is not others we love, but our selves when our eye is on what we’re going to get for our labor. But if our labor itself is love for others, then the saying will prove true that the work is its own reward. When you love you bear no record of wrong and sinners are welcomed by you and do as your Lord does, you receive and eat with sinners. When you love you envy nothing but rejoice in all things. When you love you do not insist on yourself, but put others before you. When you love you do not seek to be repaid or to be praised. When you love you decrease and the other increases. And when you love you drink deeply from the wine of Vineyard Owner, and your heart is made glad. For it is truly more blessed to give than to receive, and the one that is forgiven much loves much.

Then, when you have done all that is asked of you, when you have loved others and given your life to and for them, when you done only what is your duty to do, you will receive the promised wage: eternal life. Not because you have earned it – the workers of the Master’s vineyard don’t earn their wage – but because it was promised. And you will go joyfully, resting firmly on the promise and knowing that you have not labored in vain, but that yours is the kingdom of heaven.

+ In Nomine Iesu +