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Bible Study



Matthew 20:1-16
September 15, 2020



Matthew is concerned about showing how the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is connected to everything past and present so that all things might be fulfilled. Creation, human history, the expanding cosmos are not accidental. Matthew shows Jesus life and teachings as the context for our lives. Jesus fulfills our work, family, friends, memories, hopes, dreams, and loves. In Matthew 20:1-16, The Parable of The Laborers, we learn God is generous. God runs on grace. For those who would restrict grace, this parable confounds.

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When 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.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 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 the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

Was the landowner wrong to offer the same pay to those who worked less hours?
Were the all-day workers wrong to expect to be paid more than what they had agreed upon?
Do the all-day laborers have a legitimate moral or legal complaint to file?
Why does Jesus compare the way of God’s kingdom to the economy of a local vineyard?
Can unconditional love be compared to a day’s wage or is this metaphor not enough?
Who are the last in our society and who are the first and why or why not do we like to see reversals?
Is there supposed to be a grand fairness built into the cosmos?
What if making everyone equal means doing something that is unfair?
Is it in our inner nature, or is it a nurtured value to be envious of others receiving unmerited grace?
If the landowner and we may all do what we choose with our things does that really mean anything?
Jesus teaches this lesson to his disciples as they approached Jerusalem. Is this what happens to Jesus?
What are the owner’s relationship to the village and what ought it be in God’s kingdom?
What are the workers’ relationship to each other and what ought it be in God’s kingdom?
What do we find ourselves grumbling most about in societal standards, rules, and lifestyles?
If God views every person as equal and deserving the same amount of love, does that irk us to no end?
Jonah pouted at God’s grace, the younger brother disdained the prodigal. Does that fulfill and sustain us?
How do we feel if those found guilty of violence, racism, discrimination and hate are loved equally?
What does envy of another’s gifts, talents, abilities, possessions, social status and accomplishments do for us?
How are we like the landowner and how are we like the all-day workers? Which is our better angel?
What presuppositions of the old world of works needs to be “unmasked” to see God’s commonwealth come?

Dear God, thank you for challenging us to take a deep look at our views of you and the world you have made. Grant us the courage to live a truly compassionate life, ready to rejoice in the good fortune of all souls. Amen.