Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost — September 24, 2017
The Grand Bargain, or Grace?
It’s easy for us to read this story and hear a message of equality, justice, and fairness. We deal with these issues in the work world every day. Those who do more deserve a greater reward, right?
Jesus brings that calculation into his kingdom and turns it on its head! Those who figure on their accomplishments, attendance, ideas, and merit to secure their place in God’s good graces are shocked—like the first group of laborers hired! Jesus will have nothing to do with the Grand Bargain: “You do something good, like walking for cancer, giving money to church, or being nice to a difficult relative/neighbor, and God is in your debt.”
The landowner doesn’t reward any laborers on the basis of their performance. It is from the grace in his heart that the reward is calculated. And so it will be in heaven. We can never put Jesus in our debt. He willingly went to the cross in our place and endured hell for us. Our offenses and the record of our sin are much worse than we are prepared to admit, and greater than our goodness. Only humility and repentance can break open the fountains of God’s free grace!
So, dear worshiper, as you come near to the kingdom of heaven today, what will you do? Will you stubbornly follow the Grand Bargain, and work yourself to death trying to put God in your debt? Or will you throw your efforts away by faith, and trust that when Jesus died on the cross, he died for you, and that every offense, rebellion, idol, and sin on your record has been wiped clean forever?
One way leads to pride and to slavery. One way leads to the death of pride and to freedom. Choose wisely!
Bill Andrews, pastor, St. Paul’s Moravian Church, Upper Marlboro, Maryland