23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” 27Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first. 20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘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.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Generosity is God’s hallmark. Full of loving kindness, God generously gives and gives again. We all become caught up in working for the kingdom. We start thinking that we deserve some extra reward for our sacrifice, our hard work. We become jealous of those who seem to have it all from God without having put in the hard yards. We so readily forget that it is all of grace: Every one of the labourers was only there because of the owner’s generosity; none had done it alone. Following Jesus is costly. It involves sacrifice, hardship, loss, pain, and difficulty. It is the Way of the Cross. This is the reality for many Christians through history and in many parts of our world today. When I think of some of the demands made on me, they pale in comparison to the plight of brothers and sisters who face real persecution and deprivation. I catch myself occasionally thinking that perhaps it is time for a little reward for all my hard work and effort. But none of us can tell God what our particular labours and sacrifices deserve by way of reward. At the final count, it is all entirely of God’s grace and generosity alone. God decides the first and the last, and does so not by our justice but by amazing, wonderful grace.
The Rt. Rev. Paul Butler Bishop of Durham Nottinghamshire, England
Why do we persist in thinking that the kingdom is easier for the rich? What labour is God calling you to today?
Rev. Mary’s Reflection
To answer the first question, I think we persist because it is easier or it should be. I think it should be easier to share food when we have enough to eat, clothing when we are not going to be naked or even cold if we give up our cloaks, because we have another in our closet to wear! It should be easier to share our shelter too. Especially if we have an extra room in our homes, which many of us do. But it isn’t is it? Instead, when we accumulate things, we begin to feel entitled to them. We take ownership of them and quickly forget all is given to us by God. Human’s even take ownership over work and the right to work, especially the right for meaningful work. But God keeps side stepping us.
Today, in the world of COVID-19, we begin to look at work as either essential or not. Essential work is Food Production, growing, picking, packing, etc. Many of which, jobs are worked by the most marginalized in our society – because anyone of means finds the work beneath them. But never the less, the world cannot be fed without these jobs – not to mention the effect no food would have on the economy.
Health Care–doctors, pharmacists, nurses, aids, lab workers, cleaners, janitors, food services employees, transporters, and the many other jobs I have neglected to mention because I am just plain ignorant of the all the many jobs it takes to keep or health care system working. EVERYONE of these workers are essential. Again, many of these jobs are held by the most marginalized in our society.
Jesus wanted us to know that God would never treat all these people like we do in the kingdom and does not want us to treat them as such here on earth. We are at a point where we can bring about some principles of the kingdom here on earth, today if we are willing to do so. But it does mean that we need to give up some of our entitlement. We have to pay everyone a fair wage, no matter how dirty the work may be. For we are just getting to know what jobs are really essential and which ones are not!
Generous God, we are amazed by your great grace. Hallelujah! Help us to live in and by grace every day. Amen.
Crafton, Barbara Cawthorne. A Journey With Matthew: The 50 Day Bible Challenge . Forward Movement. Kindle Edition. Crafton, Barbara Cawthorne. A Journey With Matthew: The 50 Day Bible Challenge . Forward Movement. Kindle Edition.