Matthew 20:1-16
September 17, 2017
Pastor Witt


Greeting: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

Text:  1) For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2) He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3) About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4) He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right. 5) So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninths hour and did the same thing. 6) About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing? 7) “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard. 8) When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’” 9) The last workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10) So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11) When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12) “The men who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” 13) But he answered one of them, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14) Take your pay and go, I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15) Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? 16) So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Introduction:  Here is a question that fits any approach to God’s Word: “Did you bring your ears and your hearts today?” God has given us both our ears and our hearts. He gives us ears to hear and to listen to His Word. He gives us hearts to believe and to respond in love to the truth and grace of His Word.

In many churches this time of year is a time to emphasize the matter of Christian stewardship. His grace God has made us His very own children through faith in Jesus Christ. For many of us, that faith was created and that position as His children was given to us at our Baptism. Since our coming to faith, God has also called us to be His stewards, that is, we are God’s managers. We have been selected to receive blessings from God that we are to manage for Him. We do it willingly and eagerly because we personally know the saving love that Jesus has for us.  Jesus eagerly chose to manage His entire life for us so that we might have eternal life with Him.

Throughout our life, our faith needs to be continually fed and repeatedly renewed so that it may survive, grow and flourish. We take time to make faithful use of God’s Word and Holy Communion so that the Holy Spirit may nurture and develop our faith. The Spirit also urges us to encourage each other for our mutual benefit and blessing. So we work together to provide the comfort and stimulation we need from God’s Word.

In the Gospel lesson for today, the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, we find plenty of things that Jesus teaches us so we can be encouraged by Him to be strong in our faith and faithful in our service to Him. Today we consider the searching question: “Will You Serve The Merciful Master?” It is question that challenges us to turn to our Lord for guidance and purpose.

All who belong to Christ by faith have a merciful Master. A master is one who has authority over another. Our master is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a most merciful Master. In His unfathomable kindness, He has delivered us from the cruel mastery of Satan over us. We now belong to Him. He has much work for us to do for Him.

1.He Gives Us Meaningful Work

From the Parable of the Vineyard Workers, we discover a number of reasons to answer the question: Will You Serve The Merciful Master?” with a resounding “Yes, I will.” The first reason God gives us is that our Master is pleased to give us meaningful work to do. The vineyard owner in the parable represents God. That owner’s actions make it clear that God is very interested in putting people to work in meaningful ways. The owner in the vineyard went out 5 different times of the day to find people to work in harvesting the fruit in his vineyard. He didn’t want people to stand by idly and unemployed when there was so much to do. He went out and energetically called people to leave an empty existence and take part in stimulating service.

God gives His believers meaningful work to do. He is a of purpose and His wants us to live lives of purpose as well. He directs us to invest our time and energy in worthwhile things. The most important project He calls us to join is His harvest of souls. The greatest work we can do in this world is to invest our time and energy in planting His Word into the hearts of others so that the Holy Spirit can raise the spiritually dead to life in Christ and cause the spiritual babes in Christ to grow to maturity. There is no better activity for us to be involved in.

So we ask ourselves, what are we doing with God’s call to work in His spiritual vineyard to plant the seeds of His Word in people’s hearts? Are we working faithfully or are we standing idly by? Are we helping with the harvest of souls by serving in and supporting efforts to reach out and build up with the Gospel? Or are we hindering the work by holding back and remaining on the sidelines?

Along with those basic questions, you and I may further ask: Is my life structured well and focused carefully to be a faithful worker in God’s harvest of souls? This is an important question because the answer we give determines just how well we can fulfill the mission God has given us. A life that is unfocused and disorganized often doesn’t get much meaningful done. A life that is focused and organized around the wrong things also doesn’t get the spiritually meaningful things done. The time of our life is precious. It is a gift God has given us. We have to give an answer for how we use that time. It isn’t to be wasted on only selfish pursuits. It isn’t to be squandered on insignificant things. Our Lord wants us to make the time of our life count by investing in the things of eternal importance: the spiritual and eternal welfare of people who are helped by God’s Word. Our Lord did not idle away eternity. With great purpose He created the world and all the people who live in it. In a spirit of loving intention, He planned and carried out the rescue of sinners through sending Jesus to be their Savior. With determined love, God employs His people to share the life-giving Word so that Spirit may bring others to believe in Jesus as their Savior and Lord and go to heaven instead of hell when they die. Since our Lord is a God of purpose, let us reject laziness and wasted focus.

There is much work for us to do with the spiritual lost people that God has placed into our lives as our personal mission field. There are precious souls we know and care about that God has prepared us to reach for Him. There is much to do in our congregation and community. We have leadership and service positions to fill so our work together for God as a Christian congregation continues and grows to reach more people. is much to do in the world. There are still whole groups of people in many countries that do not have the benefit of a saving knowledge of Jesus and the truth of His Word. are gifts we can make, prayers we can offer, and time we can dedicate to reach them while we and they still have time.

2. He Grants Us Such Gracious Rewards

A second reason for us to work faithfully for our Lord Jesus is that He is a merciful Master who grants gracious rewards. Notice how the vineyard owner provided for his workers. He was a generous employer. He paid a good wage. He gave all the workers a denarius. denarius was the standard wage for a good day’s work. The owner made sure that his workers were paid a wage that would allow them to provide adequately for their families. Our Lord’s promise to us is for generous provision. In Matthew 6:33, He says: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.”

This is a beautiful promise. One of its most beautiful aspects is that it frees us to serve God gladly. promise of having our needs taken care of frees us to love our Lord and to devote ourselves fully to His service. If we keep our priorities straight and seek His glorious rule in our lives and for us, He will not fail to grant us all that we need. promise frees us from worries and fears, from distractions and disappointments. Assured and confident that our truth-telling Lord will provide for us we can devote ourselves fully to Him and all the assignments He has for us.

We must be warned that we can create a problem about receiving God’s gracious rewards. can let resentment interfere with our joyful service. Some of the workers did that. They grumbled at the pay they received. The owner had treated them fairly, but they didn’t see it that way. They grumbled at the owner’s generosity toward others who had not had the early opportunity to work as they had.

If we are not careful, we can fall into the same sin as the ungrateful, grumbling workers in the parable. God is gracious and His gracious dealings with others are nothing for us to judge. Rather they are things to marvel at. We are to marvel because God also deals with us in grace. We deserve nothing but punishment from Him for our sins. It is by grace we are pardoned and saved. To begrudge God His grace is warped, twisted and depraved. May God spare us from jealousy and ingratitude - the deadly poisons that pollute and destroy saving faith and spiritual life.

God's grace is marvelous to receive and to behold. Like the owner in the parable, God is a generous Lord, who cares for the needs of His people and provides so richly to meet them. He gives His grace to the undeserving, to beggars, who have nothing to give Him and who need everything from Him. That is our position and it is our great privilege to be cared for by the God of amazing grace.

Will you serve the merciful Master? To refuse, to say “No” would be the height of ingratitude. To say “Yes” and to follow through in our life’s activities is the fitting, thankful response He desires. Prompted by our experience of His mercies in Jesus, let us pledge this day: “With all my heart and for all my life, I will serve, My Lord and Savior. Eagerly and faithfully, I will serve my merciful Master. Amen.

The God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ will Himself make you strong, firm and steadfast. Amen.