The Free Gift

JESUS SPEAKING

                “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle,and said, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen” (Mathew 20: 1-16.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the parable, the landowner represented God in the form of Jesus Christ.  The ‘first workers’ represented the men (the Pharisees and religious leaders) that God had called to minister to the world; these men had been faithful for many years; some their whole lives; they had avoided lying, adultery, and drunkenness; they prayed, and observed the feasts and the commandments of God.  They felt that their own efforts and righteous deeds had earned them a distinguished place with The Lord.  The sinners of the world were represented by the ‘later workers,’ who had lived the majority of their lives in sin.  Jesus (‘the landowner’), had been calling all sinners to repent; many prostitutes and tax collectors were being baptized and turning to God; they began to do the work of the Lord, side by side with those who had never strayed from the path of righteousness.  In the parable, the ‘day’s wage’ represented the gift of salvation; the free gift offered to all mankind (irrespective of past works.)  The religious leaders hated Jesus, because he had made them equal to new converts; they felt entitled to a greater reward from God for their many good deeds.  Those who received what they did not deserve glorified God; those who believed salvation had to be earned, despised the grace of God in order to glorify themselves.  Some thing’s can never be earned, they can only be received.

                Many years ago, I was working in sales when the economy crashed.  One day, I was called in to my manager’s office, and I was ‘let go.’  I picked up my last check, and began looking for work full time.  I sent in untold numbers of resumes and went on countless interviews.  No call backs, no second interviews; I continued in this strenuous routine for nearly five months, until rejection after rejection finally produced within me, great discouragement and despair.  I decided to stop striving so hard to find work, and instead I committed my future to the Lord.  I began to work for free and to serve God and others.  I started volunteering at a non-profit, a local church, and a senior center.  I visited an orphanage, and continued doing outreach in the community.  A couple of months later, I received a call from some company I don’t remember submitting a resume too.  I was hired to be a caregiver, and to help a needy man with his daily living needs.  God had used many months of disappointment to humble me.  He brought me to the point at which I was able to receive the job as a blessing and not a wage.  I didn’t get the job because I had worked hard; nor was I overly qualified.  Instead it was a gift I gratefully received from God.

                Today, there are many people who believe that they deserve God’s favor; they emphasize self-righteousness and human effort.  But Jesus Christ came to offer something that cannot be earned; he came to bring salvation to those who are willing to say “I am unworthy.”  Apart from the cross, no human being can be right with God.  Those who follow Christ rejoice in knowing that they are freely forgiven; they stand side by side with those who have labored long in the faith.  All believers are drawn together as one by the sweet blood of God’s only begotten Son.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today, and we accept Your free gift of salvation.  Give us the humility to grab hold of Your mercy and grace.  Help us to avoid being judgmental; may we rejoice with new believers, knowing that they have received the same great gift that You have given us.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.    

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