Workers in the Vineyard

Bible:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:1-16 ESV

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV

Reflection:

A man was speaking on the radio, and he was very angry. He had just heard the news that another man, who had been a murderer and was in jail, had become a Christian. The man on the radio thought that it wasn’t fair that this other man, who had done some terrible things in his life, would get to go to heaven. He said that he didn’t want to share heaven with a murderer! It wasn’t fair!

Jesus told a story about some people who had gone to work in a man’s vineyard for a day. The ones who were hired the first thing in the morning had agreed to work for the fair day’s pay that any worker would get, but people who were hired later, even the ones who had stood around in the marketplace all day hoping to find work, also got a fair day’s pay at the end of the day. This didn’t seem fair to the first workers. They had worked hard in the hot sun all day, and they didn’t think it was right that people who had worked only one hour got paid the same amount! But the owner of the vineyard explained to them that he had paid them fairly, and that he had chosen to help the men who had been waiting and hoping for work all day. He wanted them to also be able to go home to their families with enough money to take care of them, so he gave them the gift of a fair day’s pay.

Sometimes people who have been Christians for a long time feel angry and jealous of people who only became Christians after many years of going their own way. We often forget that being in God’s kingdom is a gift, and not something that we earn by our good lives. Some of the workers in the vineyard earned a day’s pay by doing a full day’s work, but we can never earn our way into heaven. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and to make it possible to live as the Lord’s people, now and always. This is a gift for everyone, and every day we have in God’s kingdom is a gift. It’s when we forget that, and get tired of going God’s way, that we get angry and upset about the love and forgiveness the Lord gives to others. But when we remember the gift of God’s amazing love for us, we know that this gift is for all people, and our Heavenly Father gives us thankful hearts that know the joy of seeing this gift given to others as well.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your love and mercy. Please give us joy in sharing this gift with others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Why?

Bible:

There were some present at that very time who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5 ESV

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV

Reflection:

Back in 1982 near Houston, Texas, some workers were putting an antenna on a television tower. The metal television tower was over 2000 feet tall, and while the men were up on the tower a cable on the antenna snapped and caused the antenna to fall. The antenna fell against one of the guy wires that supported the tower, and when that guy wire broke, the tower collapsed. Five of the men up on the tower died, and three more were injured and taken to the hospital. It was a terrible accident.

Disasters and accidents like this happen now, and they happened back in Jesus’ time as well. A tower near a place called Siloam fell and killed eighteen people during that time. Sometimes people in authority also do cruel and wrong things, and that happened in Jesus’ day too. Pontius Pilate, who was the Roman governor of Judea at that time, had put some people from Galilee to death while they were in the temple offering sacrifices. Some people came and told Jesus about it. They might have been wondering, why? Why do terrible things like this happen? They might have been thinking that people who have these terrible things happen to them must be especially wicked and sinful. But Jesus said that that wasn’t true. He said that everyone is sinful and deserves the punishment of death for their sins. When disasters happen, we shouldn’t think that the people they happen to were worse sinners than others. We should take it as a warning that we need to repent of our sins and know God’s forgiveness so that we escape his final judgment.

We can’t know why things happen the way they do, but we do know that God loves all people and wants them to come to him for the help and forgiveness Jesus won for all of us on the cross. While disasters and injustices can be seen as signs of God’s judgment on the world, we also can look at the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross for the greatest sign of his love. Sad and frightening times are times that God works through for the good of his people, and they can also be times for us to show our love and concern to others for Jesus’ sake.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to save us from your judgment. Help us to share your love and concern for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://www.upi.com/Archives/1982/12/07/A-huge-2-million-metal-television-tower-collapsed-today/1050408085200/

Jeremiah in Jail

Bible:

Now when the Chaldean army had withdrawn from Jerusalem at the approach of Pharaoh’s army, Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin to receive his portion there among the people. When he was at the Benjamin Gate, a sentry there named Irijah the son of Shelemiah, son of Hananiah, seized Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “You are deserting to the Chaldeans.” And Jeremiah said, “It is a lie; I am not deserting to the Chaldeans.” But Irijah would not listen to him, and seized Jeremiah and brought him to the officials. And the officials were enraged at Jeremiah, and they beat him and imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for it had been made a prison. Jeremiah 37:11-15 ESV

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:11-14 ESV

Reflection:

In Chicago in the late 1800s many workers were banding together to form unions. They were working long hours under some terrible conditions, and they wanted safer places to work with fewer hours and better pay. Sometimes things got violent, and that’s what happened one evening when a crowd of union workers gathered in Haymarket Square to hear a speech. The police came, and then someone threw a bomb into the square, and after that a riot started. In the end seven policemen and at least four other people were dead. Who was responsible for this bomb? Eight labor leaders were arrested and convicted of murder. There was no evidence that any of these eight men had thrown the bomb, and only three of them had even been at the rally. But they were convicted anyway, because people were angry and fearful about union activities. Three of them were executed, but later three of them were pardoned and released from prison when the governor of Illinois looked over the notes of their trial and saw that it hadn’t been fair or just.

The same kind of thing happened to Jeremiah. The Babylonian army had come to Jerusalem to attack, but then there was a pause in the fighting when the Egyptians moved their armies toward the city against the Babylonians. While things were quiet for awhile, Jeremiah went to the land owned by his family to receive an inheritance, but a sentry saw him and accused him of being a deserter. He had heard Jeremiah’s warning that God’s judgment was going to fall on his people, and the sentry’s anger and fear made him believe that Jeremiah was going to betray his people and join the Babylonian army. This wasn’t true, and Jeremiah told him it was a lie, but still he was beaten up and thrown in jail.

Anger and fear can make people do terrible things to others, and this is what happened to Jesus. He came to teach the people God’s ways, and he did many good things. He healed the sick and did many other good things, but some people became jealous and afraid of him. They had him arrested and rushed him through a trial that wasn’t just or fair, and he was beaten and whipped and put to death on the cross. But God used this great injustice to bring people back to him. Jesus died to pay the penalty for all the sins of the world, and because of him God forgives us all our sins. We are God people forever, and will someday live with him in his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that won’t ever come to an end.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for suffering anger and injustice for our sake. Please forgive our sins and keep us close to you. Amen.

Source:

http://www.history.com/news/remembering-the-haymarket-riot

Fasting with Bad Hearts

Bible:

“Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?”
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord? Isaiah 58:3-5 ESV

[Jesus said:] “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:23-28 ESV

Reflection:

Patty and Violet were making mud pies together. They took a hose and added water to some dirt, then sloshed it around with their feet and mixed it around with their hands. Then they sat down in the mud and started working on their mud pies. When Charlie Brown walked by, Patty and Violet were very dirty. Their hair was messy, and their dresses and arms and legs and faces were all streaked with mud. Charlie Brown told them what a mess they were. “Wait until your mothers see you!” he warned them. But the girls couldn’t understand what the problem was. “Why? What’s wrong? We’ve got our aprons on!” they said.

God’s people were just as silly as Patty and Violet. They had turned away from God and sinned in many ways against him, but they thought that they were very righteous because they went without food and sat in ashes and wore rough, scratchy sackcloth against their skin. They seemed to be very religious when they did this, but even when they fasted they also were fighting and quarreling and even hitting each other with their fists! They were enjoying their solemn fasts and at the same time being unfair to their workers and taking advantage of them. They couldn’t understand why God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to warn them that they weren’t pleasing God with their fasting. Just as Patty and Violet thought their aprons would cover them and keep them clean from all the mud they were playing in, God’s people thought their fasting would keep them clean from sin and keep them right with God.

God doesn’t look at a few nice or religious things we do, but he looks inside, at our hearts. He looks for love and trust and obedience, and if he doesn’t see that, it doesn’t matter what we do to look righteous. The Lord will judge us as sinful and wrong based on what is in our hearts. This is a really scary thought, because we all have thoughts of anger and selfishness and rebellion against God inside ourselves. No one can ever be right with God in the heart. But Jesus came with a heart that was perfectly loving and obedient to his Heavenly Father. Jesus paid for all our sins, including the sins of our hearts, when he died for us on the cross. Because of Jesus, we are forgiven every day, and God sends us his Holy Spirit to give us new hearts of faith and trust.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die for us so that all our sins could be forgiven. Please give us new and better hearts every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Schulz, Charles M. The Complete Peanuts 1953-1954 Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2004, p. 59.