Isaiah 55:6-9, Philippians 1:20-24,27, Matthew 20:1-16
The Generosity of A Merciful God
One important quality we have to know about God is His love and generosity towards all. God does not discriminate. In Matthew 5:45, the bible says that God makes His sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Towards the end of today’s gospel, the landowner who in the gospel represents God said to those who are complaining that they would have been paid higher;
“I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Do I have the right to do what I like on my own? Why be envious because I am generous?”
It is this generosity that is keeping us alive. It is this generosity that explains the reason God treats everyone with kindness.
In the gospel, it is this generosity that made the householder pay those who were recruited later the same amount as the first. Therefore, the focus of this reading is on the generosity of this merciful householder, who never withheld anything from those who worked for him.
This is actually the reason we choose “the generosity of a merciful God” as our topic today.
Is God Unfair.
Have you ever felt that God was so unfair to you? Maybe you pray always and it is as if your prayer is not always answered and another who is praying with you got exactly what he or she prays. How do you feel? That God is unfair right?
Someone in your place of work was promoted before you or you think you have been suffering and yet have nothing to show for it? Have you for one day thought that God is not doing exactly how you want? Do you think that God is unfair to you?
2. In the gospel, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a landowner who goes out on daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. This worker agreed with the first workers that he hired for one denarius a day and then sent them to his vineyard.
Now, about the third hour, He saw others standing idle in the marketplace. The landowner also said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So, they obeyed and went.
About the sixth and ninth hour, the landowner went out and did the same to others, which means the third and the fourth group of people.
Then at about the eleventh hour, he went out again and found more men standing around, which means that this is the fifth group. He asked the fifth group, the reason they are standing idle all day. They complained that no one hired them, and the landowner also told them to go into His Vineyard too.
Now in the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So, those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each.
Now when the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it but grumbled at the landowner.
They felt that the landowner was unfair to them. The reason is that the men who came last have done only one hour, but treated them the same as them, which for them is not supposed to be.
The Landowner answered one of them and said,
“My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own money? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’
Many of us feel the same way, now the question is “Is God unfair to us”?
After going through the gospel of today, one may be surprised. We may ask the reason the Landowner decides to pay all the labourers equally. We may hastily conclude that the landowner (interpreted as God) is unjust and inconsiderate. The readings are actually revealing the generosity of a merciful God.
In Matthew 19:16-22, which is before the gospel of today, a rich young man came to Jesus asking, “Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
Jesus tells him to sell his possessions and give them to the poor. Because of this, the man went away sorrowfully, because of his many possessions.
Now when Peter observed this, and knowing, that they as the disciples of Jesus had given up everything to follow Jesus, Peter asked Jesus what then will their reward be?
Jesus answers generously that the Twelve will sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. But these rewards will not be limited to the Twelve.
Jesus goes on to say that everyone who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for His name’s sake, will receive one hundred times, and will inherit eternal life”. In essence, this does not remove the rewards for the apostles but also not limited to them.
Peter asks, “What then will we have?”. This is not the last that we will hear of the disciples’ ambition. Remember when they were debating on who is the first among them and when the mother of James and John comes to Jesus to request a special place in the kingdom for her sons in Matthew 20:20-23?
Towards the end of the discussion with Peter, Jesus tells Peter that the first shall be the last and the last shall be the first. Therefore the parable that follows is like an illustration of what Jesus means by that statement.
Jesus gives the parable to strip away the notion that our rewards will be proportionate to our Christian service. Or that we are competing with other people on who will be the most powerful and prayerful.
Jesus makes us understand that every reward that comes from our service to God is dependent on the generosity of a merciful God who is eager to surprise us with undeserved blessings. It is dependent on the generosity of a merciful God who is eager to lavish on us joys that we would never have conceived.
Who are the First and the Last?
The first group that the landowner hired were those God chose as His people. They are the people that Jesus chose as His apostles and disciples. The people that He chose are the first group.
The second group are the Jews who come to Him through His word. These are the people who witnessed His works and miracles, the chief priests and the Pharisees.
The third and fourth groups are the Gentiles and the fifth groups are those who through the gospel of the apostles came later.
So, Jesus uses the parable to teach Peter that the Kingdom of God is not merely for them or the Jews only. It is also for the Gentiles and others who will come later.
It means that others can also partake in the kingdom of God. This is not only for the disciples or only for the Jews. And every person will receive the same reward.
Remember that Jesus also ends both chapters 19 and 20 with the same statement “The last will first, the first will be last”.
God Does Not Owe Anyone.
Let us briefly dissect the truths about the First Group. This group are those that grumbled because they feel they did not receive a fair wage but is the landowner owing them? Now let us go back to the gospel.
1. The first established truth here is that the vineyard belongs to the landowner. It does not belong to the workers. The landowner allowed the workers to be part of his vineyard.
Therefore, in application, the world we find ourselves and everything that we have today never belonged to us. We were only given the privilege to be part of them.
When we want to complain, let us first understand that we are only like the workers. Whatever we have, our gifts, brain, body, work, places, children etc. are what God gives to us freely.
Therefore, He decides how to give them and what to do with them. We do not command Him as if we are the real owners. We owe God our gratitude all the time.
2. The second established truth is that the landowner is the one who moves around hiring workers to His Vineyard. Those workers were hired.
Therefore, He can decide whether to hire them or not. Let us also understand that our coming to this world is only by God’s grace. We do not merit it. God can decide to send you to the world or not. God can also decide never to send you.
In our vocations and professions, God can decide to choose whoever He wants. This is evident during the call of the apostles. Jesus called Matthew a tax collector, a sinner, and not the self-acclaimed righteous Pharisees.
We do not have to complain about anything because we should not have been here in the first place. Seeing ourselves here and still complaining and blaming God is a huge sign of ingratitude.
3. The third established truth is that the landowner later had an agreement with the workers that He would pay them an actual amount, which is one denarius a day. There was an initial agreement.
The landowner went on to fulfil that agreement. And if the agreement is fulfilled, there is no need for them to complain. They complain only because they feel the landowner is unfair or that they deserve what they are expecting.
Therefore, in application, God has blessed us with everything in life that we need. God has blessed us with food, natural resources, brains, relations etc. He has done His part. He has blessed us already. Every other thing we get is out of His magnanimity.
Then, God can decide to do this to anyone He wants. Let us not think that God is unfair or owes anything. God does not owe anyone.
The agreement has been settled. He has done His part for you, now the rest is what we have to do for ourselves.
When we pray and seek His intervention, let us not make the mistake that we are doing that because we deserve it. Whatever good gift God gives to us or whatever He decides to answer our prayers, we still owe Him our gratitude.
God is not unfair; rather we think He is unfair to us because of His generosity. Also, for the first workers, there is already a set-out plan.
In the same way, everybody has his destiny and what lies in our paths. What lies in my path may not be what lies in your path.
So, when we see others walking through their paths, let us not think that God is unfair because we are not like them. They may have everything and still die early. They may live long and still not be happy. Everyone has his burden to carry. Face your front.
The Consequence of What We Deserve.
One thing we have to understand in this parable is that the seeming unfairness of God is a good thing and the act of demanding what we deserve has a lot of consequences. Whatever we have today is by the grace of God.
According to Psalm 103:3, If God should treat us according to our sins, who can stand? If God began to reward and punish us according to what we do, by now, the world would have gone to extinction.
Therefore, the seeming unfairness of God is a good thing. Therefore, in that seeming unfairness of God, God shows His love and generosity to us. He shows us mercy despite how sinful we are.
Despite our mistakes, God has not withheld anything from us. God showers us with His grace and breakthrough. Therefore, we have to understand that the landowner was under no obligation to give the workers any extra money. Any extra given is by His grace.
Therefore, let us not think that God is owing us. He does not owe anyone. The generosity of the merciful God lies in the fact that He loves everyone despite our weaknesses.
It lies in the fact that He gives us His grace when we do not deserve it. We do not deserve 99% or even 100% of whatever we have. Therefore, instead of complaining like the first, we owe God huge gratitude. God has blessed us with many blessings, because of His love and generosity.
Our Thoughts and Ways are Different From God.
There are times we feel that God has turned His back on us. This has made many lose faith in God. But at last, you will discover that what you think is actually against you is in your favour. God works in mysterious ways.
Once we establish that God is rich in generosity and mercy, then we are good to go. Therefore, instead of going away from God, we have to come closer to Him.
1. In the first reading, Isaiah says “Let the wicked man abandon his way, the evil man his thoughts, Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him”. Therefore, when we turn back to God, we turn back to Someone rich in mercy and love. When we turn to God, we turn to someone rich in forgiving our wrongdoings. Let us quit thinking that God is against us.
2. God says in the first reading according to Isaiah “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways, not your ways, Yes, the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts”. In 1 Corinthians 1:25 Paul says “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
When the Jews saw Jesus hanging on the cross, they saw it as one of the most shameful things, not knowing that it was for good.
Therefore, Do not be fast to put an end to your situation. That condition may be for good. God’s ways are very mysterious. He moves mysteriously.
3. You pray that God will give you a good wife, God answers and gives you one but she is not fair in complexion with the physique that you want, you reject God’s gifts.
You pray that God gives you a man who will give you peace of mind, God answers too but because you want someone wealthy or graduate, you reject God’s gifts. Then tomorrow we come back to blame God.
In the first reading, Isaiah describes the ways of God as high above heaven. Describing God’s ways as being as high above us as the heavens implies that we will have a hard time understanding His ways.
4. God’s ways of accomplishing His purpose are strange to man. For instance, His ways of battle, love, salvation, timing, healing, deliverance, etc. can look laughable, shameful, uncomfortable or even difficult sometimes, even foolish by human standards. Hence, we do not think that it is the hand of God working.
We must not understand whatever God is doing, we only need to believe and trust God’s ways. God’s ways demonstrate his omniscience and omnipresence and will always lead to the expected results that will surprise you later.
The Gifts of God.
When we compare this parable with the Parable of the Prodigal Son/ Elder Brother (Luke 15), we will see some similarities. Both parables also teach us the generosity of the Merciful God.
In both parables, the grace the Owner shows to the undeserving person offends those who think of themselves as deserving.
Then in the story of the prodigal son, despite the mercy shown to the returned prodigal Son, the first son felt so offended.
In today’s parable, They have worked long and hard, but the master put them on par with all the rest. What this reveals is that God does not discriminate. The grace, love and mercy of God put us on a par with those who will later repent of their sins.
The problem is that we do not want to be on a par! We want to be on top! We always want to earn the best, the most powerful and prayerful. Hence, God is teaching us to always depend on the mercy, love and grace of God despite how hard we think we have worked. None of our efforts equals God’s love for us.
The workers in the gospel were called by God and they responded. They became recipients of the reward not because of the time they have been working but because of their response to God’s grace.
Therefore, there is already a mapped-out wage for the workers. Our efforts are never in vain but despite our efforts, we have to depend on the mercy of God just in the way pagans like the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13, and the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28 did.
We have to ask for His grace and mercy in the same way Bartimaeus who was not even among the crowd following Jesus did and received healing even before those who were following Jesus around. Also, like the crucified thief. The mercy and graces of God should be where we have to depend.
1. Finally, we can see in this parable that God can surprise anyone. The generosity of the merciful God is evident. Such is the reward that comes from God. In the parable, those who came late may be expecting little. Imagine the surprise that would greet their faces when they were paid in the same way as first.
Therefore, God can surprise us with blessings and favours, we would never have imagined.
The key here is to take our work very seriously and respond to opportunities as they come to us. The reward may be surprising at Last. Therefore, the reward that comes from God comes like a surprise package. This is the reason, we do not have to lose hope, anything can happen at any time.
2. The readings of today teach us about the generosity of a merciful God. The generosity of a merciful God is evident is the action of Someone who is full of compassion. God only acts out of His magnanimity and love. For God is full of goodness and mercy. This is the message of the parable.
Therefore, let us not complain, murmur or think that we deserve everything in life because we are doing one thing for God or not. God already knows how to bless you. We have to trust the generosity of the merciful God.
We have to know that what we are doing is what we ought to do. Also, whatever comes to us is not actually because we deserve it but because of the love and mercy of God.
God is full of compassion for the poor and for sinners, and the poorest of the poor. Therefore, when God gives them chances to repent, do not think that God giving blessing them more than they deserve. He is only showing His love. HE cannot but act out of love.
3. Therefore, this reading today is also a call for everyone to face whatever path and destiny, God has for us.
What lies in your path is different from others. Quit thinking that others are now above you and you are far behind. Your own time will also come as long as you do not give us up. Therefore, we have to eschew every sign of envy, jealousy, hatred, and wickedness and focus on our lane.
4. Also, when things do not go the way you want, never think that God has forsaken you. That thing that you called difficulty may be a blessing in disguise.
That spouse that you want to reject because it did not fit your standard may be the best thing that will happen in your life. Also, That place that God has sent you, may be the best for you.
Do not grumble or murmur when things do not come the way you want them to be packaged. Our ways are so different from that of God. That challenge may be a blessing in disguise.
5. Today’s reading also focuses on feeling so entitled to God’s gifts or grace. When you pray, you are discussing with God and telling Him what you want.
God also decided to answer the way He wanted. We are not entitled to anything. Let us not feel so entitled to God’s grace. We have to depend on His mercy and love always.
Secondly, we are not entitled to anyone and no one should be entitled to you. Whatever you decide to do should be your personal decision.
6. When we read the gospel closely, we shall discover that the time the landowner paid all was at the same time. He did not pay the first earlier and He paid them at the same time.
This is how God answers our prayers. He answers some people immediately. He answers some after one week, some after a month, while awesome after months or a year or years. We simply need to understand this. He does this not because He loves others and hates some, No.
It is because He gives them at the time, He thinks they would serve the interest of His need, in the same way, He allowed Elizabeth to stay long before giving birth to John the Baptist so that John the Baptist would be there to see the Christ and do his work. What if John was born earlier and hence beheaded earlier?
7. Therefore, we have to trust God even when we do not understand what He is doing. God is full of mercy and love. His silence may still be for good.
As Saint Paul says in the second reading, we have to Avoid anything in our everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ. And one of them is murmuring or showing anger against God. Be calm. Impatience has made many lose faith.
Impatience has led many into doing things they would not have done. Be calm and trust God’s love and mercy. The prayer of mercy is always answered.
May God bless you dearest and help us to respond to His grace. May He protect us from danger Amen