Septuagesima Sunday
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
January 27, 2013
Central Passage
Matthew 20:1-16

No child deserves to be abused. No date deserves to be violated. No spouse deserves to be cheated on. No soldier deserves to die for fighting for his country. No citizen deserves to be cheated and lied to by politicians. But politicians deserve whatever they get. Repent.

It may be true that no child deserves to be abused and no date deserves to be violated and no spouse deserves to be cheated on. But it is also true that your husband doesn’t deserve your derogatory comments and sarcasm. Your wife doesn’t deserve you looking and fantasizing about other women. Your children don’t deserve your excuses as to why you’re too busy to play with them or read to them. They don’t deserve your laziness at teaching them the faith.

In truth, you don’t deserve your job, your house, or anything you have. It is all a gift of your heavenly Father. And to think others don’t deserve as much as you or more than you – weather it’s wealth, looks, fame, or punishment – is to put yourself first. But the first will be last and the last will be first.
That’s not to say that the last will end up getting more than the first, but to say that in the kingdom of heaven all are equal. And immediately upon hearing this we are afraid. We afraid that while we might know that we are all equal in the kingdom of heaven, our pastor seems not to know this. We afraid that while we know that we’re all equal, others don’t know this. And in not knowing this, they will abuse and take advantage of us.
That’s what the Israelites thought in the wilderness of sin. They thought to themselves, “We are all Israelites. Not one of us is better than the other. We are all sons of Abraham. Moses is no better than us. So why does he get to be in charge and make the rules? Why do we have to follow him? After all, he led us out of Egypt and away from plenty of food and comfort, where we were safe.” So they rebelled against the Lord and against His anointed.
Perhaps the most sneakily devastating thought we have is that we are all equal. It is sneaky because it is true. We are all equal. Yet we do not do equal things. Every man may be equal to another, but not every man is a father or husband. Yet if equality is our chief aim, our highest good, then we will not care if he is a father or not, we will want him to get only what we get and to be rewarded only as we are rewarded. This is why mothers feel a little guilty about having children when their friend cannot have children. The law of equality says that she has received something she didn’t deserve and the other woman has been denied something she did deserve.
So the workers were all equal. They were workers without work. But then something changed for them. Some were hired early, some later, and some at dusk. To the eye this makes them unequal. So the first workers thought. We have worked harder and longer and suffered more than those after us, we should get more. They forgot that the job itself was mercy. The master did not need to hire them. He went looking for workers to give them work so that they could get paid and feed their families and find worth and excitement in being part of something. The master hired them for their sake, not his. This is evident in that the master paid them all the same. He obviously didn’t need the money. No employer pays all the workers the same; they’d go bankrupt. But this master is different than our employers. He doesn’t hire the workers because he needs them or needs the money they might produce for him. He hires them because they need him and his money.
Those workers hired first, while they were most likely thankful for work, are like you and me. Once we’re hired we think we’re at the starting point. From here on out we get what we deserve. So some work harder, they get more. Others are lazy, they get less. And when a lazy worker gets the same as we who have worked and toiled for longer and with greater energy, we are offended and become angry. We become angry because we thought we deserved more. And in anger we rebel.
We rebel against one another and against the Lord because we think others have what they don’t deserve. We rebel against one another and the Lord because we think that others have what we deserve.
Repent. You don’t deserve anything you have. Whether in this life or in the life to come. Everything you have is from your heavenly Father. And everything your neighbor has is from your heavenly Father. So if your neighbor is rich and wealthy and has a nicer home and a better marriage, don’t begrudge the Lord’s generosity. He gives as He sees fit according to His riches and mercy. Or do you begrudge yourself when you sit down to eat and can pay for a meal for your whole family – usually two or three times a week – while there are whole villages that are starving to death? No, you don’t begrudge yourself, you blame others.
You blame the government or the terrorists or the village’s backward ways. You blame their history and their lack of love for God. But you are no better. Yet your heavenly Father gives you all that you need to support this body and life. Even more than you need. And for this you should not feel guilty.
You shouldn’t feel guilty about having money or a nice house and three cars. You shouldn’t feel guilty for being married or having children when others are not so blessed. For all good gifts come from your Father in heaven who gives according to His riches and mercy.
And neither should you begrudge others for what they have. It is true that they have not deserved it, but neither have you. The true starting point is that none of us deserve to be hired at all. None of us deserve to be born or to have loving parents or a loving spouse or money or freedom. None of deserve to have faith or to receive forgiveness or to be counted among the saints of God.
The Master hires by grace. Grace is undeserved. When we are caught in our sins and lies, our self-exaltation and thoughts of entitlement, even when we don’t think we deserve the mercy of God, still He gives. He gives over and above all that we could think or ask. He gives us His Son and our cups overflow with mercy and goodness. He gives us His Son so that we are not merely workers being overpaid, we are heirs of the kingdom. May His grace continue to keep us steadfast in His word and faith.
In Nomine Iesu
X Amen X