Thought from Bible Study

As we learned about the parable of the workers and the vineyard in Matthew 20, our BSF teaching leader said something I needed to hear. I may write more about this later, but I’ll toss this quote out there for you all to chew on.

The owner did not hire the workers because of what he could get out of them. He hired them because they needed the work.

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9 Comments

Filed under Bible, Christianity

9 responses to “Thought from Bible Study

  1. Here is another one to chew on. I think it came from The Fisherman by Larry Huntsperger. This isn’t directly from scripture, but it makes me think.

    Maybe the disciples were selected not because they were the people who could serve and advance the kingdom the best, but because they were the people that needed the most remedial help, especially the three who spent the most time with Christ.

  2. interesting.

    I know I am one who needs the most remedial help. 🙂

  3. Jeff

    I think that may be reading something into the parable that fits with our understanding of God’s nature, but is not the intent of the story. Clearly the landowner did hire them to do a job, one that did benefit him. Yes, he rewarded them the same no matter how hard or how long they worked, but it might be reach to say that he did not hire them for what they would provide him as well. If that were the case, he might as well have just walked up to them and given them the money.

    We tend to read parables from a very western, 21st century, “Christian” perspective. I would assume that a 1st Century, Jewish, day laborer who was hearing Jesus teach this would have slightly different perspective.

    Basically, I don’t think the parable is about why he hired them, but that God is generous and does not reward those who enter the kingdom early more than those who come a bit later.

  4. Tom

    Something else to consider: Just after these accounts, Jesus always dealt with his disciples wanting to have a certain position in the Kingdom. We’re told so in the following verses from Matthew 20:

    20Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
    21″What is it you want?” he asked.
    She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

    22″You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
    “We can,” they answered.

    23Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

    24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

    The last will be first and the first last? Are there levels like this in heaven? Will some of us have bigger mansions than others? (Not that I care mind you, I’ll take the smallest little shanty there is in heaven if only the grace of God cover my sins). The disciples perceived that there would be levels. They thought that some would be greater than others. Jesus was saying that even though the reward is the same, some may be tempted to consider it of lesser value simply because they’ve worked longer for it. Am I any less saved, any less welcomed, or any less accommodated in the after-party (Heaven) if I turn from the most heinous wicked sins a day (or an hour) prior to my death and obey the call of the Gospel? Will there be less of a parade at my arrival if one hour as a Christian I spend instead of my neighbors 80 dedicated years? If you find yourself thinking, “Well that’s not fair!” I’m afraid that you may have slipped into the same kind of thinking as did the workers who spent the day in labor.

    Just a passing thought,
    Tom

  5. Interesting thoughts.

    Tom, yes, I think that the reason Jesus taught this parable right then was in response to the disciples who were fussing over who would sit at Jesus’ side and reign with Him. They kept having that same discussion. I think they wanted to know what they’d get out of serving Him, and I think they were definitely thinking of being “in” with the Messiah who would rule on David’s throne.

    I think the disciples probably remembered these words of Jesus later on when the Gentiles were accepting Christ. They may have come a little later than these first Jewish disciples, but their reward would be the same.

    Jeff, I think you are probably right on some levels. Jesus was teaching to Jews and their understanding may have been different than ours typically is. And I think it’s important and interesting to learn about the culture and the context in which the Gospel accounts were lived out. However, Jesus is the God of all times and ages, and He certainly knew that these stories would be recorded and studied. And I believe that there are probably many layers and lessons in every part of the Bible. That’s why I can study the same passage year after year and learn something new each time. I think Jesus taught to the Jewish audience in that culture, but He also knew there would be lessons for us in our Western culture today.

    I think the teaching leader’s point was that when the master/vineyard owner hired those last workers just an hour before the end of the work-day, He wasn’t expecting to get a lot of work out of them. Jesus pointed out that the workers in the story were standing around idle. They needed some work to do. So this vineyard master hired them.

    I think that’s a valid point and there are lessons there the Holy Spirit may want to teach us. If the denarius represents eternal life (or a relationship with Him), then God doesn’t bring us into His kingdom and give us eternal life (or a relationship with Him) because of what He’s going to get out of us. He brings us because we need Him to.

    I think taking that lesson away from this parable does not at all diminish other truths taught in this parable — that God is sovereign and generous and doesn’t reward those who come early any more than those who come later.

  6. Jeff

    Tom,

    Excellent point about putting the parable in the context of what he was trying to teach the disciples at that time. It seems that most of Jesus actions were directed at teaching the 12, whether it be parables or miracles. (Read the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida in context of the entire chapter and see what that miracle was teaching the disciples.)

    As for the mansions, well that is an unfortunate translation I think. You might have to settle for a room in your Father’s house (though I don’t think you will be disappointed.) Again, a good example of us missing the picture of a Jewish engagement/wedding ceremony where the groom would go back to his fathers home and add room for his new bride, and when the father thought it was ready, he would send the son back to get her. Something all of his hearers would immediately connect with. Yet, we are excited about a “mansion” sometimes more than the bridegroom returning. At least I know that I fall into that trap sometimes.

  7. Jeff

    The reference for the healing of the blind man at Bethsaisda is Mark Chapter 8, but you need the entire chapter to put it into context. I always separated the chapter at the subheadings that the publisher inserted.

  8. Tom

    There are many layers to the scriptures. I may read something today much differently than I did last year, and still much differently next year (or next week). We often take God out of our study time. We remove him from the equation. I would not post on this blog if I didn’t really believe that someone was there to read it, and you can bet that I would not read these blogs if I didn’t care what people had to say. I expect you all to be there to read and respond or react in some way. Bible study is the same way. When we devote our time to God in prayer and study, he is there. His Spirit is there with us actively partaking in the activity. I often pray before I study my Bible, but I like to hold the “Amen” until the study is over. God speaks to us through his word. I must allow him to do that. I must expect him to do that. If someone has questions for God and they don’t read their Bibles, where are they expecting to get the answers? Likewise, if someone reads the Bible in a “question vacuum”, how deep can they get? I love it when someone challenges me. It gives me a question that will set in the back of my head and often surface when in the depths of a study. “Oh, that makes sense.” I’ll say, “Why didn’t I see that before.” It’s because I came to the answers without a question. What’s worse is a Christian who doesn’t pray or read. It’s like trying to be a best friend with someone you’ve only heard about. It can’t be done.

    I appreciate all your insights. I can tell that you are people of faith and study. Jeff, thanks for your thoughts. I’ll take a closet as opposed to a mansion (translation issue or no).

    Tom

  9. Jeff

    Tom,

    Thanks for your words. I love the idea of the layering of scriptures that you talked about. the Jews talk about the 70 faces of the text – that each passage has many different meanings and that we come to understand the passages differently each time we come to them.

    I think asking questions of scripture has been the biggest change for me as I have studied scripture over the last couple of years. One of my favorite questions is when I come upon something that seems to be a bit of a random fact is to ask, “Why do I need to know that?” and explore where that leads. Sometime the answer is an amazing new insight, sometimes it adds a new perspective to the story, sometimes it doesn’t seem like I need to know it at all. It is always a challenge to dig deeper, but it is so rewarding to see more complete picture of our Father.

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