USE WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU
In Matthew 20 Jesus gives the following parable.
“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went
out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard.
He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.
At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing
through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing.
So, he hired them telling them that he would pay them
whatever was right at the end of the day.
So they went to work in the vineyard.
At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.
At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again
and saw some more people standing around.
He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’
They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’
The landowner told them, , ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’
That evening he told the foreman to call them in and pay them,
beginning with the last workers first.
When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage.
When those hired first came to get their pay,
they assumed they would receive more.
but they too received a day’s wage.
When they received their pay they protested to the owner.
‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you paid them
just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’
He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair!
Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage?
Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you.
Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money?
Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’
So those who are last now will be first then,
and those who are first will be last.”
Now, if you go back to the last verse of the previous chapter, you’ll find this same statement. (Matthew 19:30) 1
“So those who are last now will be first then,
and those who are first will be last.”
He now repeats this again here.
So these seem to be the words that act as book-ends for this parable.
And, if we go back just a bit further to Matthew 29:27 we hear the question that Peter directed towards Jesus as he says,
“Lord, we have left all to follow you.”
And Jesus tells him,
“Look, no one has left anything, but what in this life
He will get a hundredfold, and in the life to come eternal life.”
There are many startling truths to be learned from this parable.
When the landowner pays the first men who came last, giving them the same wage as to those who had toiled all day, there does seem to be ground for grievance.
But Jesus does not say ‘the Kingdom of industry’ is like this; He says the Kingdom of heaven is like this.
Pride has no place in heaven. And no mere man can judge what lies behind the ‘late answer’ of another soul.
God’s rewards are bestowed for handicaps over-come as well as for goals achieved. 2
Now, what else is Jesus seeking to teach by this parable?
It is the fact that Jesus, as the landowner, went out to seek labourers for work in His vineyard.
We did not voluntarily show up for work. No He first sought us!
It was the Lord that sent each of them into the vineyard. And since this was God’s work, each received the same portion.
And ‘payment’ is rewarded for faithful service in His vineyard. And the ‘payment’ or our ‘portion’ is ultimately eternal life.
Not that we earn eternal life, but rather eternal life is our portion given due to our faith. And our faith is expressed by faithfulness in our devoted service to Him.
The point is that we all will be rewarded for our faithfulness in God’s service. If we are faithful for one hour, if we are faithful for twelve hours, we will be rewarded for it is one’s faithfulness to the service to which God has sent us that is central here.
Sometimes we see people who on their deathbed receive Jesus Christ and enter into eternal life. As we stand by their bedside do we therefore resent the fact that they receive eternal life as a gift as do we?
Of course not. We rejoice! But we recognize that they have missed a lifetime of joy in service to Him.
Eternal life is God’s gift to give and He can give it to whomever and whenever it pleases His good will.
For we are all co-labourers working together in His vineyard. Listen to 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.
“After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul?
We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News.
Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.
I planted the seed in your hearts and Apollos watered it,
but it was God who made it grow.
It’s not important who does the planting,
or who does the watering.
What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose.
And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.
For we are both God’s workers.
And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.”
God has called each and every one of us into His vineyard – His harvest field.
And we each have received a gift – a calling – that He is fine-tuning.
We are God’s field, from the above Scripture, in that God has planted the seed of salvation into each of us who believe.
This planting within us then grows under the ‘watering of the word,’ until we are mature enough to enter His harvest field.
It is out there in His harvest field that we are given the opportunity to duplicate in other hearts what was done in ours.
From the ‘field of our hearts’ to the ‘field of the world’ the word is planted.
And just as we are God’s field we are also God’s building as mentioned above.
1 Peter 2:5:
“You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house,
An holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices,
acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners,
but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God;
and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.
In whom, all the building fitly framed together grows
unto a holy temple in the Lord: in whom you also are built together
for an habitation of God by the Spirit.”
We are God’s building, fitly framed together, in order to accomplish His good pleasure.
We are compared to the stones of a building, each stone a believer set perfectly in place – each stone dependent upon its neighbour and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Each stone called to a task; no one stone more important than any other except for the ‘capstone’ – Jesus Christ who holds us all in unity – holds us all in love.
And this building-of-believers has Christ as the foundation stone and Christ as the capstone!
“The stone which the builders rejected has become
The head of the corner: this is the LORD’s work
Marvellous in our eyes.”
(Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17)
And the Lord has built this house-of-faith beginning with a foundation of the apostles and prophets.
The Bible describes many, many gifts that believers receive for ministry.
Some, are highlighted in groups but these are not the only ones and they certainly are not the most important ones – for we are all equal in the sight of heaven and our ‘portion’ we each receive is the same – eternal life.
There are the five “office gifts” listed in Ephesians 4:11-12
“And he [Jesus] gave some, apostles; and some prophets;
and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers;
for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry,
for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
Again, our work is one of sharing the burden. We are in this together folk!
No hierarchy, just stones fitted perfectly together for the benefit of the world.
There are nine gifts of the Holy Spirit as given in ! Corinthians 12:4-11 – the ‘manifestation gifts.’
“Now, there are diversity of gifts, but the same Spirit.
And there are differences of administration, but the same Lord.
And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God
that works all in all.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone to profit all.
for to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom;
to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
to another faith by the same Spirit;
to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy;
to another discerning of spirits;
to another divers kinds of tongues;
to another the interpretation of tongues.
But all these work that one and the self same Spirit,
dividing to everyone severally as He will.”
And there are seven ‘redemptive gifts’ given by the Father in Romans 12:6-8.
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us,
whether prophecy, let us prophesy, according to the proportion of faith;
or ministry, let us wait upon our ministering: or he that teaches, on teaching;
or he that exhorts, on exhortation: he that gives
let him do it with simplicity; he that rules, with diligence;
he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Use what God has given you.
And be reminded of the admonition given in Matthew 10:8
“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils;
freely you have received, freely give.”
Remember we are not in the money-making-business; we are in the soul-saving-business.
We have been gifted – we have been called to His vineyard – we have been purposed as hands and feet and mouths and ears and eyes of the Lord.
We have been fitted together into the ‘body of Christ’ to work out what He has worked in each of us.
And as Paul reminded us in 1 Corinthians 12:13-22:
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks,
Whether slaves or free – have all been made to drink in one Spirit.
For in fact the body is not one member but many.
The foot cannot say, ‘Because I am not a hand I am not in the body,’
Is it therefore not in the body?
And if the ear should say, ‘Because I’m not an eye I am not of the body,’
Is it therefore not of the body?
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing?
If the whole were hearing where would be the smelling?
But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”
So, our labour has been chosen by the One who sought us, called us, and placed us in His harvest field as it pleased Him.
We need not be concerned with our ‘payment,’ for our portion is Him and His gift is eternal life. What more could we desire?
We need not be concerned what others have been called to do. We need only to encourage each other, pray for each other, and exhort each other as we each bend over our ploughs.
We are not called to be gift-inspectors, we are called only to be fruit-inspectors.
We have been gifted and equipped. Use what God has given you for His honour and glory, with cheerfulness of heart and in the joy that comes from being co-heirs with Him, and consider not your brother’s or sister’s toil with critical eye, but exhort each and every other labourer for the end of our work-day draws nigh and our reward awaits. Amen.
Father God we thank you so much for the care you have for us. We thank you that while we were standing around, having little purpose in life, You came and sought us; that You invited us to join you in your work of redemption. That you have given each of us work that will have eternal consequences, not just for us but for the many others we come into contact during our daily labours. Thank you that not only are we called and put to meaningful work, but that also You have equipped each of us in ways we yet do not fully comprehend; that You have placed us within the body of Christ with care and foresight, and fitted us together as one, with you, as precious stones, a spiritual house for your habitation. Come Holy Spirit, dwell mightily within each of us individually and collectively. May your dwelling within us grow richer, day by day, as you continue to water us with the word. Continue to gift us for our labours; inspire us to work out what has been worked in. Strengthen us as we bend to our labours, and having put our hands to the plough may we resist looking back, for there is nothing there for us that can compare to the riches of Your glory. Increase our wisdom as we interact with those about us – the lost – the wayfarers who wander the edges of the vineyard. May we reflect your joy and radiance as we toil under a scorching sun. Grant us grace to accept our brothers and sisters as they are – works in progress, yet precious stones in your eyes, being formed and fashioned into the image of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour and Redeemer. We support our fellow labourers and pray for each one of them now as we stand shoulder to shoulder, a building of the Lord’s doing created for Your habitation. Thank you for the gifts you have given us and may each of us use what God has given us. Let us not even think of burying your gifts in the sand, and if we have, may we dig them up, shake them off, and put them to your good use once again. Your word reminds us to “work while it is day, for the night fast approaches when no one can work.” 3 May we redeem the time. Set our feet to enter your vineyard; equip our hands to see to the tasks at hand; open our eyes to see the “fields ripe unto harvest;”4 strengthen our backs as we bend toward the hurt and wounded around us. May the joy of seeing You at the end of our working day be all that we imagine it will be. We bless Your name oh Lord, our Master and yet our friend, our co-worker, the Heir of all that is glorious and good Who also calls us to be co-heirs as well. May we continue to be worthy of such grace and continue to be faithful stewards of the gifts that God has given us. In Jesus name, Amen.
1 Chuck Smith Blue Bible Commentary
2 The Open Bible Parable Jesus Told
3 John 9:4
4 John 4:35