I don’t want to tout every Kevin DeYoung sermon, though I do usually benefit from them, but I found last week’s sermon especially relevant to my person, and perhaps you will find it the same. (And, ironically, I wasn’t actually at church, as I had a sore throat – oh, happy internet.) I can’t summarize a long sermon in a way that does it justice, but I’ll say a bit more. The sermon text was Matthew 20:1-16. You know it (NKJV),
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 to them, ‘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.”
1. Do we have an attitude of firstness or lastness? If we excel at our jobs and people accord us honor and respect, do we say to ourselves, “yes, I deserve this honor, I deserve all that I have received. I really have done things quite a bit smarter. I am where I am because I have worked harder.” I suspect highly skilled people especially could be tempted to these thoughts. But the last will be first because they know they are last. We have no right to God’s goodness. He has apportioned His grace and His gifts as He sees fit, and if we do excel, let us praise Him and not boast of our own greatness. Deuteronomy 8,
Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’
And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
2. Do we begrudge God’s generosity? When we see a fellow Christian experience undeserved success or blessing, are we happy for them or jealous? (Or worse, does it gives us pleasure to see someone else struggle?) On an institutional level, if God brings revival through that other church in town, are we going to rejoice or mope? “We like grace, but we want it to be fair grace.” To even apply some standard of fairness to grace makes it something other than grace! Stop worry about fairness, start looking at life through the goggles of grace.
3. The third point is not a personal application, but I have mentioned before on this blog the thought, held by Randy Alcorn, Mark Driscoll, and many other wonderful Christians, that there are degrees of reward among Christians in Heaven. But note that this quoted passage from Matthew, at least, seems to suggest that there may not be. Craig Blomberg was quoted in this sermon as saying that “The very nature of grace and perfection precludes such a concept” as differing degrees of reward. “The very nature of perfection…” hmm.