October 8, 2017: 18th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, in a world in which fairness is just a word and not reality, how wonderful it is that You are totally fair!  You treat everyone exactly the same, regardless of their birth, their wealth, or anything else.  Even more importantly, You extend Your mercy and grace to each of us in a totally fair manner.  Trusting in Your grace, we rejoice over the fact that salvation for our souls rests in Your hands and not ours alone.  Amen


TEXT:  Matthew 20: 1-17

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Our lesson is about how fair, just, and loving God is with each of us.  Since we have many of our young people with us today, I’ll gear this sermon to them keeping the fact of God’s fairness vs. humans lack thereof in mind.

My oldest and closest friend of over 50 years came to visit and then left this past week.  We reminisced about “old times” and generally had a really good visit.  During one of our conversations we discussed the choir instructor at our high school.  I never knew that my buddy had tried out for choir and been rejected!  He has a good voice.  He played trumpet in the band and reads music better than me.  He has a good singing voice, too.  So, why was he rejected?  It took him 40 years to piece it together, but his father was the chairman of the school board at the time and the choir director had a beef with his dad.  So, my friend didn’t make choir as payback for some supposed slight!  It’s not fair, but that’s the way it often is in life.  So, the old statement: Life isn’t fair, was again proved true.

The older members here today know this very well.  They’ve experienced not getting a job because although they were more qualified, the one hiring knew a relative of another candidate and hired them instead.—Life isn’t fair.  This will happen to you when it comes to sport’s teams, jobs, colleges, and friendships.  Get used to it.


Many of us grew up in a nation where we were taught that if you played by the rules and worked hard and trusted others you got ahead.  It’s a variation of the old dictum: “The cream rises to the top.”  We were taught that everyone was basically good and thus they would act fairly towards us.  Unfortunately, that’s not true.

I’ll give you some examples.  One, you put your money in the bank, earn some interest, and eventually you want to draw some out to buy something.  You go down the bank.  Usually it’s not a problem.  After all, they have your money and you want it back.  Wrong!  Since various banking crisis over the past 20 years the laws have been changed.  When you deposit money in a bank it is no longer yours.  Legally, it now belongs to the bank.  And if the bank fails, as happened in Greece a few years ago, the bank can restrict when and how much you actually get back!  It’s true!  Study the fine print in the banking laws.  “But, that’s not fair!  It’s my money!”  No, it’s not.  A lot of little people in Greece got back 20 cents on the dollar because of this.  So, we hope the banks don’t fail or we’ll all be a bit broke.

What do you really own?  “Well, I own my house!  I make the mortgage payments every month!”  Sorry, you don’t own it, the bank does, until the last payment is made and you possess the title in your hand.  The same is true of any car bought on credit.  The same is true of anything you “own” via a loan where a debt is involved.  It doesn’t sound fair to our ears, but that’s the way it is.

I’ll tell you something else: there are laws in our nation which say that in an emergency the United States government can confiscate literally anything you possess!  “But Pastor, I bought and paid for that food, that computer, that video gaming counsel, they’re mine!”  Not according to the law in an emergency—unless someone decides differently.  Fairness?  What’s that?

A week ago a terrible shooting took place in Las Vegas.  It was horrible, senseless, and evil.  It wasn’t fair that innocent people were slaughtered by a madman.  All those dead people thought they “owned” their bodies that night.  But evil circumstances dictated that the evil gunman owned their bodies instead.  It isn’t fair.  But, life isn’t fair.  Some of you have had friends die in car accidents.  Their lives were snuffed out. It could have been you, instead.  Life isn’t fair, is it?


Many young people are spotty in their church attendance after confirmation.  There are a variety of reasons.—Sports, work, being busy with other stuff, and just plain laziness, too.  However, I believe the real reason is a disconnect with exactly what church gives you and how it helps you.  When you boil it down, the only thing you really “own” in life is your soul.  That’s it.  Your soul is yours alone and no one else can take it from you unless you let them.  Church helps you continue owning it.  This is where God and our lesson come into play.  For our lesson clearly outlines just how fair and just our God really is.

In this parable told by Christ, a landowner needed workers for his vineyard.  He went out early in the morning and hired a few for the day at: $100.  Later that morning he realized he needed more.  So, again he went out and hired additional help, saying: “I will make it right when it comes to your wages.”  At noon the same thing happens.  At 3 o’clock the same thing again.  Finally, with only one hour of work left, he hires additional workers under the same guidelines.  Now the sun is setting and they all come in for their money.  He pays the last hired first and gives them $100.  The same thing is repeated when it comes to the ones hired at 3 p.m.  noon, and mid morning.  Those hired first are thinking: “Well, if he paid these folks the same amount of money, obviously we’ll get more since we worked all day long!  That’s only fair.”  But, they too receive $100—the amount agreed upon when they were hired.  To this they grumble and complain.  While the owner responds: “I’m not being unfair—we both agreed on $100.  Can’t I be generous with others if I want to be?”  “Are you envious because I am generous?”

This is really a parable about life, your life.  God offers all of us His grace and blessing.  Forgiveness for our sins in Christ, a peace-filled conscience, the blessing of knowing that our future is secure in Him, and the certainty of heaven is the “wage” here.  But it’s actually a gift.  It comes from the hand of our gracious God.  So, it doesn’t matter whether or not a person comes to faith as a little child, a teenager, at middle-age, or as a senior citizen.  God treats everyone fairly.  We’re all given the same soul-blessings.  To be honest, no one is fairer than God.  Nothing is fairer than His grace, or undeserved love in Jesus Christ.

When I was a little kid I didn’t “get” this parable and thought it unfair.  That’s because I hadn’t seen and experienced the true unfairness of life, yet.  Now, however, I love, truly love this parable.  For it means that heaven is mine through faith and God keeps His promises because He has such a huge, loving heart.  So, when Jesus concludes by saying: “So then, the last will be first and the first will be last” I just rejoice that I’m included along with a whole lot of other people just like me.  And I’m especially glad that by His grace I gave my soul to Him.  After all, He created it, gave it to me for safe-keeping, bought and paid for it with the blood of His Son, and promises to keep it eternally safe.  And those facts fill me with tremendous joy!  Amen