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Sermon for Matthew 20:1-16   -   It Isn't Fair!
Proper 20
           

One day a rich young ruler came enthusiastically running up to Jesus and asked: "What must I do to be saved?" Jesus answered: Keep the law. "This I have done from my youth up," came the reply. Yet one thing do you lack, said Jesus. Go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor. Then come follow me. We are told that the young man walked away sorrowfully, for he had great wealth. Concluded the Master: It will be hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

The disciples had been watching the dynamics of this happening and they were quite disturbed. Jewish tradition had always taught that God had especially blessed rich men and that is why he was rich. In their way of thinking, if a wealthy man could not receive salvation, then how could a poor man have any hope? They asked of Jesus: who then can be saved?

It reminds me of the movie, Fiddler on the Roof. The poor Jewish milkman who lives in early 1900 Russia sings what he would do "if I were a rich man." His wife reminds him: money is a curse. He immediately shouts up to heaven: curse me God, curse me. Jesus has just turned away a wealthy man, and in the Jewish way of thinking it doesn't make any sense. In fact, I am not sure how many Methodist preachers would have the courage to do it.

But it was Simon Peter who drew the question even more clearly into focus for us. He asked what is on the mind of every one of us, only we are too sophisticated to ask it and too self-righteous to admit that we even think it. Peter didn't have any problem with that. He simply laid his cards out on the table. He said, "Lord, we have given up everything, riches and all, to follow you." What then shall we have?" In others words, what's in this for us, Lord? How do we stand to profit? Where's the payoff?

In response to Peter's question, Jesus told a story. It was the harvest time of the year. At 7 A. M. a wealthy landowner went to the Town Square to hire laborers. In this story of hiring workers we learn:

1. The person who comes late is just as important as he who comes early.
2. We really do not comprehend the nature of God's unmerited grace.
3. If there is any special payoff for being selected early to labor in the Lord's field, it is simply the inner satisfaction that we receive from being in God's employ.

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