The Scandal of Grace Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Grace,Grace, God's Grace!
I see at least 4 areas for application.
1. Grace reminds us that God’s favor is a gift.
Remember the “problem” in this text is an unusual one.
It is not the injustice of a mean and cruel landowner.
The problem is the scandal of a gracious and loving farmer.
Verse 15 asks the question, “Are you envious because I am generous?”
One of the most harmful sins that we can commit as God’s children is the taking of God’s grace for granted.
You may put it this way: “The charge of unfairness was not grounded in a love for justice but in the selfish assumption that the extra pay they wanted was pay they deserved.”
It’s so easy to take grace for granted, and after a time we come to demand grace just like the workers of this parable.
Verse 10 says that they expected to receive more.
In the kingdom of God, there is no such thing as merit!
God’s grace is granted according to His good pleasure.
I’ve discovered that there was another parable that made the rounds during the time of Jesus.
In this version, the workers who came last worked so hard they produced more than all the others put together.
They earned the salary they got.
That makes more sense to us capitalistic Americans, doesn’t it?
But, that’s not the story Jesus told; everyone got the same, no matter how much they produced.
Many of us identify with the employees who put in a full day’s work, rather than the add-ons at the end of the day.
We like to think of ourselves as responsible workers and the employer’s strange behavior baffles us.
But, let’s not miss the point of the story: God dispenses gifts, not wages.
If it’s a wage that we want from God, the Bible says that our salary is already figured out for us.
If we want to be rewarded for our merit, if we want to be compensated for our work, then Romans 6:23 spells out how we will be paid: “For the wages of sin is death…”
But, if we want to receive what God wants to freely give us, then the last part of this verse offers us something far better than just compensation: “but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God’s favor is a gift.
Let me mention two truths that can radically transform your thinking and your way of living.
Here they are:
There is nothing you can do to make God love you more.
There is nothing you can do to make God love you less.
Like a gift, the only thing we can do with grace…is to receive it.
The second application for grace:
2. Grace keeps us from looking down on ourselves.
How many of you have ever struggled with feelings of incompetence?
Have you ever experienced discontentment?
Ever wished for a greater gift or a more important ministry?
Have you ever felt inferior to others in the church and thus less important?
Think with me for a minute about those who were not hired until 5:00 p.m.
They watched and waited while the other workers were hired.
They knew that they would probably not get paid that day and that they probably wouldn’t be able to buy any food for dinner that night.
All day long they were passed over --like a little boy chosen last for kickball.
But, this story shows us the Lord’s passion for the forgotten.
Usually, the best and strongest were the first picked.
These workers were the leftovers, the least skilled.
Who in their right mind would pick them?
These workers really represent each one of us.
When you think about it, what do we have to offer the Lord?
Does He need our intellect?
Our good deeds?
Let our confidence and joy in this life be based not on what we have or do not have or on what we do, or don’t do.
Rather our confidence is on WHO we have!
Because on the last day, when we stand before our Savior there will be no distinctions between preachers and taxi drivers.
No one is worthier than another to receive salvation because we’re all unworthy.
Not worthless, but unworthy.
There’s a third application for grace:
3. Grace makes us equal to everyone else.
The workers’ complaint in verse 12 fascinates me, “You have made them equal to us.”
The all-day workers don’t complain about their wages because they knew their pay was generous.
They’re upset because they wanted to be superior.
The word “grumble” infers that they complained not just once, but were in a constant state of grumbling.
This helps us see what kind of workers they really were.
They didn’t say, “You have put us on a par with the late-comers.”
Instead, they grumbled, “you have put them on a par with us.”
In other words, they were not only dissatisfied with what they themselves had received; they were also envious of what had been given to the others.
They emphasize that they bore the burden of the work in the sweltering heat of the day.
Compared to these upstarts, who only worked an hour, these workers thought they were worth a lot more.
There’s a part of us that wants God to give us grades so that we can compare ourselves with other people.
And if the truth were known, many of us think God has given us an “A” while others are barely passing the class.
Do you put yourself above other people?
I want you to notice a tragic chain of events that took place in the hearts of these workers.
They started by comparing themselves with others.
This then led to coveting, which led to complaining, which led ultimately to criticizing.
Do you struggle with coveting, complaining and criticizing?
If so, stop comparing yourself with others.
God declares that in the matter of grace, we are all equal.
Romans 12:3 challenges us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.
It says: “For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.”
Friends, let’s stop being so hard on other people.
Stop looking for things that don’t seem fair.
Refuse to criticize.
It’s ironic, isn’t it?
We want grace for ourselves, but we don’t always give it to others.
Grace applied to us always seems good and nice and right but grace given to others frankly disturbs us.
Be gracious with others.
Cut them some slack.
Your sin doesn’t smell any better than mine does.
It really doesn’t.
Let’s treat people the way we want to be treated because grace makes us equal to everyone else.
There’s one more application for Grace:
4. Grace offers us a fresh start.
The Christian life is really a series of new beginnings.
That’s what grace is all about.
No one is first, and no one is last.
I’m not better than you and you’re no better than me.
You’re no worse than I am and I’m no worse than you are.
We’re all covered by the grace of Christ.
That’s why I think Jesus used such radical language in verse 16 about the first and the last.
Notice what He said, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
But I also want you to look at what He said in the last verse of chapter 19, in the verse immediately preceding this parable: “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
He changes the order, doesn’t He?
The firsts and the lasts...lasts, and firsts all blur together.
It’s as if Jesus is trying to make the point that first and last don’t matter anymore in the kingdom of God.
Grace is not about finishing first.
It is not about finishing last.
It’s about not counting at all.
It’s about not keeping score.
It’s about having a do-over, a fresh start --whenever you want it.
Do you want a fresh start today?
Do you need a new beginning?
You can have one!
How do you find God’s grace?
Just ask for it.
It’s really that simple.
The more you feel your need for grace, the better candidate you are to receive it.
Hold out your empty hands and ask God for His grace.
You will not be turned away.
It’s never too late.
Though your sins are as scarlet, God says they will be as white as snow.
This is the miracle, the wonder, the scandal, and the shock of God’s grace.
It truly is “out of this world” for no one in this world would have thought of something like this.
Here is good news for sinners.
Free Grace! Free Grace! Free Grace!
Shout it, sing it, tell it, and share it.
And above all else, believe it, for in believing, you will be saved.
When we get to heaven, there will be no contest to see who was the most deserving of God’s grace because no one deserves it.
There will only be one contest in heaven.
When we look back and see what we were before, when we see the pit from which he rescued us, when we recall how confused we were, when we remember how God reached out and hired us into His family, and how He held us in his hand, and when we see Jesus who loved us and gave himself for us, the only contest will be to see which of us will sing the loudest, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”