Today on Summit Life with Jiddy Greer. Listen, if all Jesus ever did in your life was save you from hell and then after that everything else in your life was taken, would we still not consider ourselves the recipients of incalculable levels of grace? What would even the worst pain and the worst loss on earth be compared to the joys that you and I experience in eternity that Jesus purchased for us that we don't deserve? Welcome to Summit Life with pastor and author J.D. Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. In our culture, we conduct business by creating agreements or contracts so that it's clear we know what we're getting or what we're supposed to deliver.
It's a binding legal document meant to clarify a relationship between parties. But consider this, how many of us extend that same mindset to our relationship with God? I'll do this. You do that. I'll deliver here. You deliver there. Pastor J.D. Greer teaches about the dangers of believing God actually owes us something because of our actions.
It's a slippery slope for sure. It's time to get started with a message Pastor J.D. creatively titled Eleventh Hour Faith. Well, this is our third week in a series that we are calling Listen in which we are unpacking some of the parables of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. The series is called Listen because that is the word that Jesus often used whenever he told these parables. It indicated that the real meaning in these parables was often hidden below the surface and so that only those of right disposition of heart, right posture of heart would be able to perceive his meaning. So if you got your Bibles this weekend and I hope that you do, take them out and open them to Matthew 20 or turn them on to chapter 20 and scroll down there.
Let me see the warm glow of God's word illuminating your faces like I love so much. As you're turning there, being able to listen and truly understand what is being said is a critical life skill in any context. It reminded me of a story I heard when I was young about a couple of rednecks who were out in the woods hunting together and all of a sudden one of them grabbed his chest and fell to the ground and he was scarcely breathing and his eyes were rolled back in his head and so the other redneck whipside is next to hell and calls 911. He gasped for the operator. He says, I think Bubba is dead. I think Bubba is dead.
What do I do? So the 911 operator on the other end of the line responded in a very calm and measured voice. He says, okay, sir, but before we do anything, we need to make sure that he's dead or there was a moment of silence and then a loud shotgun blast.
Then the redneck's voice came back on the line and said, all right, now what? Now I'm positive that story is not true, but the point is the point is sometimes you got to listen to not just the words that are being said, you got to listen to what is being meant by the words that are being said and if there were ever a place that that was true, it's going to be the parable that we are going to encounter today. Today this story that Jesus tells is going to get at the heart of one of the most fundamental elements of our worldview and that is our sense of justice. There are few things that are ingrained into us as much as our sense of justice, whether you are religious or irreligious, whether you consider yourself conservative or liberal, young or old, you have a deep seated need for justice that resonates deep in your heart. One of the phrases that I never had to teach any of my kids was that phrase, that's not fair. I don't know where they heard it.
Probably one of your kids maybe, but they never learned it from me. But they just instinctively know that's not right and I'm not being treated fairly. Justice makes us feel like there is an order and a meaning to life. It gives us a sense of control.
It makes us feel at peace. Thus, one of the most frustrating things for us in faith is when God doesn't seem to be operating according to our rules of justice. Jesus addresses this frustration head on in this parable and this teaching that he's going to give to us, while confusing and dare I say frustrating, maybe bewildering at first, is critical in learning to trust God and learning to be at peace with what he's doing in the world. Just put it this way, if you have ever asked God, if you've ever looked toward the heavens and said, God, why are you letting this happen to me? God, why'd you let this happen to me? Why'd you let this happen to them?
God, it's not fair. That's a question that has ever come up in your heart that Jesus told this story for you. This parable, I'm going to tell you, has the potential to be an absolute game changer for many of you and will probably do more to help you trust God and be at peace with what he's doing in your life and the world than maybe anything that I've ever taught from up here.
Matthew chapter 20 is where the parable is, but we're going to start this story with the last verse of chapter 19 because the story in chapter 19 sets up the reason that Jesus told the parable in chapter 20. You know, unfortunately, sometimes the chapter breaks in our Bible come with the wrong place. They weren't part of the original thing that Matthew wrote.
We added them later, and usually they're in good places. But occasionally, like this one, it totally breaks up the context so that you don't connect what Jesus is saying to what he just said. And this is an illustration where you got to understand the story leading up to this one and understand the meaning of the parable. The story in chapter 19 is of Jesus's encounter with a guy that we now refer to as the rich young ruler. Well, the rich young ruler was, as his name implies, he was a young, successful, morally upright community leader. Evidently, he had it all. He had money. He had power. He was probably good looking. I'm sure everybody was jealous of him. Well, one afternoon he comes to Jesus and he asked Jesus, Lord, what else do I need to do to inherit eternal life?
Now you got to hand it to him. He at least realizes that all of his accomplishments in life, if he dies and does not go to heaven, that they are all ultimately worthless. The problem was that the whole basis of his question was wrong. There is nothing that we can do to earn eternal life. If there had been something that we could do to earn eternal life, Jesus wouldn't have needed to come as a baby and grow up and live the life we're supposed to live and die the death we were condemned to die.
He could have instead just sent down an instruction manual that told us what we needed to do. But instead, Jesus had to come and do something we couldn't do. So if there had been something that we needed to do, Jesus wouldn't have come. So instead, in order to obtain eternal life, you've got to admit that there's nothing you can do, and you've got to give up control of your life to Jesus so that he can do it for you. We have to admit that all of our riches, whether we're talking monetary riches or the riches of our talents or even our spiritual riches, that they're all ultimately worthless before God, and we've got to receive eternal life and God's favor as an undeserved gift of grace. This is what Jesus explains to this young man, but sadly, he walks away because his possessions are just too many, and his sense of worthiness is too great that he just could not let those things go.
And Jesus ends that whole encounter by saying, verse 30 of chapter 19, you see many who are first to be last, and the last will be first, and then he tells this parable starting in the next verse there, verse 1 of chapter 20. For the kingdom of heaven, he says, is like a master who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now, this kind of work situation right here is not super common today, where basically you'd have a group of laborers that would gather at various spots in the city, and construction crews or farming crews or whatever would come along and pick up the labor that they needed for the day. You just hire them for the day. It is actually quite common in many parts of the world. Where I lived in Southeast Asia, not far from my house, was a little place where all the guys of the community would gather who didn't have jobs, and people would come along and pick them up, and some guys would get picked up early, and some guys would get picked up at noon, and some guys would never get picked up. I do know there are still a few places, even in Raleigh-Durham, where this still happens. I know that because one of our staff members, her husband, who drives an F-150, said he had one of his tires went flat, so he pulls over in the city on the side of the road to try to change his tire, and as he's changing his tire, he hears this commotion, and he looks up, and a bunch of guys with tool belts on are starting to hop in the back of his truck, and he's trying to explain to them, like, that's not what I'm here for.
I'm trying to change my tire. I appreciate your willingness to help. So it still happens, but it was really, really common in those days, and so he's telling a story that everybody would have understood. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. Denarius a day was the day rate back then. It was a standard wage. It was fair. It was predictable.
Everybody was happy. I'll give you a denarius. You work for 12 hours. Going about the third hour, this master saw others standing idle in the marketplace. Now, they measured their hours from 6 a.m., the start of the workday, so a third hour would have been, of course, 9 a.m., and he sees these guys standing around the marketplace, and he says to them, you go into the vineyard also.
Whatever is right, I will give you. Now, here's the thing to notice here. They don't agree on a price.
See that? There's no contract. The first people enter into a contract.
You work 12 hours. I give you a denarius. These people, he doesn't promise them anything. He just says, just trust me. I'll do what's right by you, and they believe the master. They trust in his goodness. They trust in his promise to take care of them, and they go.
Going out about the sixth hour, six hours from 6 a.m. is noon, and a ninth hour, 3 p.m., the master does the same. Again, no contract. Next verse, about the 11th hour, which would be 5 p.m. from 6 a.m., 5 p.m., that's when pretty much everybody gets off work, but around 11th hour, he goes out and found others standing around. He said to them, why are you standing here idle all day? And they said to him, because nobody's hired us. He said to them, will you go also into my vineyard and my vineyard also? Again, notice no contract. Only the very first guys get a contract.
Everybody else just trusts the goodness of the master and trusts in his promise to take care of him. Verse 8, and when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, call the laborers and pay them their wages. Start with the last. Start with the guys we just hired an hour ago and lead up to the first. And when those he hired, about the 11th hour came, each of them received the denarius. Now, when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more than a denarius because they'd been working a lot longer than the other guys, but each of them also received a denarius.
And on receiving it, they grumbled at the master of the house, which is understandable, saying, these last worked only one hour. And you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat. Now, here's what's happening just in case you got lost there. The master at the end of the day, the landowner, lines them all up with the more recently hired workers at the front of the line and the earliest workers who've been working 12 hours at the very back of the line.
And he opens up his bag of coins and he says, all right, 5 p.m., guys, where are you? And they all step forward. They, of course, they're fresh and they're energetic. They still smell nice. There's no sweat marks under their arms. Their manicures are still impeccable.
Their shirts are still tucked in. And the master says, now, I promised you guys I'd take care of you, right? So here's a denarius for you and a denarius for you. And you get a denarius and you get a denarius and you get a denarius.
And on down the line, he starts to go. Well, the guys who have been working there all day are way at the end of the line, but they can see what's going on. And so they start to get excited because they're like, well, man, this is crazy generous. If he's given people who work for an hour, a denarius, imagine what he's going to give to us. They start counting it out in their fingers and their toes, and they're pretty excited. But finally, when he gets to them, who've worked for 12 hours, the master says, and a denarius for each of you. At which point they respond, wait, no fair.
We're getting the same thing that they got, verse 13. But he replied to them, friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me to work for a day for a denarius? Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge me my generosity?
Now, I just imagine, you know, that when the master said that, I think some of them probably thought, well, yes, actually I do begrudge you your generosity. Honestly, I would rather have justice. I understand justice. Justice is quantifiable. It is predictable. It feels fair.
It's comfortable. I want to deserve what I get and I want to get what I deserve. And I imagine that is probably when Jesus got a twinkle in his eye and said, really? Really? You really want justice? You want to talk about what you really deserve? I don't think you want to go there. Justice is a dead end.
Literally, it is a dead end. You see, that's where we zoom out from this story to the larger picture of the New Testament and here's what we realize. First, if God gives any of us what we deserve, we are all doomed. The Bible says in Romans 6 23 that the wages, the reward, the penalty, what we earn through sin is death. That means if we're going to get technical about it, that's what we deserve. Anything more than death and separation from God forever in hell is sheer undeserved grace and mercy.
So let's stop talking about what we deserve. Instead, it is better to have the relationship with the master that the 11th hour guys have, where you just go with him trusting in his goodness and his promises to take care of you. We'll get right back to today's teaching in just a moment, but first let me tell you about our latest resource created exclusively for our Summit Life listeners. It's a 10-day devotional that follows our current teaching on the program from the parables of Jesus called Listen Up.
The only way to know God more is to spend more time getting to know him, and that happens by reading his word, praying, and spending time with other believers. Whatever that study looks like, we'd like to encourage you to reserve your copy today by calling 866-335-5220, or you can visit us online at jdgrier.com. Thanks for being with us today. Now let's get back to the final moments of today's message.
Here's Pastor JD. I mean, think for just a minute, if you will, about the one who is telling the story. I mean, according to the New Testament, Jesus is really the one who worked all day, and we all sat around and did nothing. And then at the end of the day, not only did Jesus not get what he deserved, he was punished for our laziness. The wages that he was due were given to us, and the punishment that we deserved was placed on him. He lived a perfect life and then died the sinner's death. On the cross, he was beaten and whipped and crucified and tortured for sin, not for his sin, but for our sin.
We, by contrast, we live the sinner's life, and we reap instead the reward of the righteous. You know, sometimes I will read a business book, and there's a discussion that appears in a bunch of different forms in these business books of what's more motivating to people, to an employee? Is it the carrot or the stick, right? The stick is the threat of punishment, like a mule, you know, you can beat the steak if they're not going, or the carrot is, you know, what you reward them with. And it's like, well, in business, is it better to threaten people with punishments if they don't do what's right, or is it better to reward them if they do what's right? And it's always, you know, interesting theories on either side, but it's really interesting when you think about what God, how did God motivate us through the gospel? Did he do it with the carrot or the stick?
Trick question, both. But he took the stick of justice and beat Jesus with it, and then he offered us the carrot that Jesus deserved, that is the reward. He gave it to us as a free gift. You want to talk about fair? Really?
I don't think you want to go there to fair. But incredibly, Jesus has offered us grace. And when you see what Jesus was willing to go through to obtain that grace for you, surely you could trust him and just go with him, like the 11th hour guys did, right?
And trust him to do what's right in your life. You know, it's interesting to me when you consider that the master of this parable could have avoided this whole controversy simply by paying the guys in the order that he hired them. Had he paid the first guys first and given them their denarius and sent them on their way, they would have been happy and they would have been none the wiser. Yet he insists on paying them in reverse order so that the first guys who worked 12 hours see the guys who only worked one hour are going to get the same thing that they got. It's like he's trying to pick a fight, right?
It's like he's deliberately creating controversy, but he's doing it this way to make a point. And the point, listen, the point is not to advocate some new Marxist Christian business philosophy where everybody gets paid the same regardless of how much they work. Nor is Jesus trying to say that there's going to be no degrees of reward in heaven, right? There are plenty of places in the Bible that say there will be degrees of reward in proportion to our sacrifices and to our faithfulness.
It's not some flat reward that we all get up there. The key to this parable, as with all parables, is context. And the context of this parable is Jesus is responding to the rich young ruler and other people like him who think that they can earn eternal life or that they can deserve the blessings of God. And his point is you don't want to be in a contract relationship with God. Stop talking about what you deserve. You don't want to receive what you deserve. Better is just to follow the master and trust in his grace and his goodness and his promise to take care of you like the 11th hour guys did.
It'll work out a whole lot better for you. Then he ends that parable the same way that he started it with literally the exact same verse, the last verse of the parable, 20 verse 16. So you see the last will be first and the first will be last. Better to be last in life, trusting in God's grace, than first getting what you think that you deserve. Listen y'all, so many of our spiritual problems and so much of our spiritual unrest comes from having a contract mentality with God. And by contract mentality with God, I mean believing that God owes something to us and that we want God to give us what we deserve. Let me give you five signs.
I'm gonna use the remainder of my time here to give you five signs that you were in a contract relationship with God, most of which you'll see right here in this story. Here is number one, bitterness. Bitterness is the first sign.
Here's the diagnostic question. Am I bitter because God has withheld some blessing from me that I think that I deserve? In this story, the 12-hour workers are bitter and not getting more because they think they deserve more. But again, what Jesus is getting at is really, really you really want what you deserve. Everything good that you receive in life beyond death and hell is a gift of grace. A lot of times you and I will say to God, well like God, why is this bad thing happening to me? Or we talk about, we call it the problem of evil. The problem of evil is the problem that evil things happen to us really, really good people, right? And so we say, why is this happening to me? Why is it happening to me?
Why is this bad evil thing happening to me who's such a good person? Jesus presents a different perspective. And I want you to hear this, okay, just Jesus said it, not me. It's kind of a brash statement Jesus made.
Luke chapter 13. Evidently in Jerusalem, there had been a tower, a building that collapsed and killed 18 people at one time, right? And so the question that people presented Jesus with was, they said, well, Jesus, were those 18 people just more wicked than everybody else? And that's why the tower fell on them. Like maybe God saw them all together at the same place at the same time.
And it's like, now's my chance. Boom, makes the tower fall on. And Jesus said, actually, no, that's creative thinking, but no, that's not what happened. And then Jesus gives the most politically incorrect statement in the entire New Testament.
He says, but I tell you the truth, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. In other words, the question is not why did that tower fall on those people? The question is why did that tower not fall on you?
You want to talk about what you did or what they did to deserve it. You all deserve to have a tower fall on you. And every single day that you get up in a tower, hadn't fallen on you is a day of grace. The fact that I woke up this morning and there was no tower on my house.
The fact that I woke up this morning with sun shining. The fact that I woke up with breath in my lungs is a gift of grace that I do not deserve because what I deserve is death and separation from God. So I should stop talking about what I deserve and I should thank God for grace.
And that will change my perspective on everything. Listen, if all Jesus ever did in your life, if all he ever did was save you from hell. And then after that, everything else in your life was taken. Would we still not consider ourselves the recipients of incalculable levels of grace, grace that we did not deserve?
I mean, think about it. What would even the worst pain and the worst loss on earth, what would that be compared to the joys that you and I experienced in eternity that Jesus purchased for us that we don't deserve? I mean, no matter what you go through on earth, and I'm not trying to minimize your pain, but no matter what you go through on earth, don't you think you'll still be singing in eternity that last verse of amazing grace when we've been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun. We've no less days to sing God's grace and his praise than when we have first begun. See when you say to God, God, you owe me that blessing. You're trying to get back into a contract relationship with God.
And I promise you that is not where you wanna be. I know a couple in our church who've struggled for many years with why God has not blessed them yet with children. And they said, aren't children a blessing from the Lord? Doesn't the Bible say that? Why hasn't God given us that blessing?
Why? And listen, that's a normal struggle and it's a very real question. And it's something that we grieve over and it's a perfectly legitimate question. But the husband told me recently, he said that quite often for us, we have slipped into the mentality that God owes us this and it's made us bitter and angry toward God. And he said, when we do that, it's like we are disqualifying ourselves from the grace that God has given to us. None of us wants to demand that God gives us what we deserve.
None of us wants that. And the greatest blessing that God could ever give us is forgiveness of sin and eternal life and forever fellowship with him. And because God has given us those things in grace, we know that we can trust him with this issue of children.
And we will stay still say when we've been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, even if we never have children on earth, we've no less days to sing his praise than when we first begun. Number two, here's the second sign that you are having a contract relationship with God, jealousy. So here's your diagnostic question. Am I jealous of good things that others have that I've want? Am I jealous of good stuff that other people have that I want? Jealousy is you're mad that you don't have that. Resentment means you're mad that they have it. It's kind of a two-edged sword there. You're mad at them and you're like, well, I'm mad that I don't have it.
In this story, these workers are jealous of what the later workers got because they think that they are more deserving than the other laborers were, right? I mean, that's the whole basis of it. We deserve that.
They got it. We should have it. Now we're like that also, aren't we? Don't we look around? How often have you looked around?
I've done this. You look around and you say, well, why did they get that opportunity? Why are their bodies so good looking and healthy?
Why am I the one who's getting sick all the time? Why did they get the job? Why did they get the promotion?
Why did they get that honor? I deserve those things more than they do. Isn't that the basis of jealousy? But see, don't you see how that again has put you in the mentality of a contract?
Is that really where you want to be? Isn't everything good that you have received? Isn't it a gift of grace? And hasn't Jesus promised that he will take care of you? And hasn't he promised you that he'll do what's right?
And hasn't he proven that you can trust him? Those were the first two signs that we are in a contract relationship with God. Don't miss the conclusion next time here on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. Every month we offer a brand new resource, and our current offer is a 10-day devotional guide called Listen Up, 10 Interactive Devotions from the Parables of Jesus. And J.D., I know you have a specific aim in mind with this study. What do you hope listeners will take away as they work their way through this book? You know, Molly, using an interactive devotional like this will help you take just a little time each day to better understand some of Jesus's important teachings through parables. What this will do is take those things and drive them deep into your heart so your life changes as you're learning it. Each of these sections is going to include a Bible-based devotion, a couple of reflection questions, and then a prayer prompt to get you started praying the Scriptures with the goal of creating this as a habit for you every day to study God's Word and talk to God. I want you to take a look at this.
I think you'll find it really helpful. Just go to jdgreer.com and find out how you can reserve your copy today. I'm Molly Vidovitch. We look forward to having you back next week as we continue studying the parables of Jesus in our teaching series titled Listen. We'll see you right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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