“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ ………” Matthew 20:8-12 NIV
We would be wise to remind ourselves that everything we have is a gift from God. Ingratitude produces in us arrogance and self centeredness which makes us focus on the wrongs in our lives, rather than the blessings. If we give place to this ungrateful attitude, it won’t be long before bitterness, and anger become our constant companions. We will be blaming God for what we think is lacking, all the while He is providing the very things we have been seeking. What we once had seen as a reason to be grateful will become our expression of ingratitude, especially if someone else seems to be given an easier road, we will complain.
In this parable, we have an example of this. All of these workers needed employment. Each of them were given an opportunity for work at different times. Those who began the day very likely were happy to be able to have their need supplied. This work was an answer to their prayer. Now they could provide for their families. However, as the day goes on, and others are brought in and given the same opportunity with less effort, attitudes turn sour, and what earlier was seen as a gift, now becomes a bone of contention.
The interesting thing is that their gift and reason to be grateful did not change. Their needs were being met. But their perspective and attitude did change, based upon what someone else received. Is this really the way we should be evaluating our reasons to be grateful?
You see, the landowner offered them life, and provision. A reason to give thanks. At the end of the day, life and provision were still made available. The grumbling and ungrateful heart is exposed.
What is at the root of this? A sense of entitlement. They had forgotten that this work was their miracle. They had forgotten this day’s work meant that they could eat. They became discontent with what they had and grumbled because they did not get more. We see this over and over again in the children of Israel, and then in our own hearts.
We have every reason to be grateful. God is good, we have more than we need. We are part of an unshakeable Kingdom in an hour where everything is being shaken. Yet, the more we have as a people and as a society, the less we are thankful. Could it be that we have embraced this entitlement attitude? I dare say that this ungratefulness is really sin and as long as we give place for it in our lives we will continue to miss all the good that God is doing around us. Gratitude is not something we pick up when we feel like it, it is a choice. It is seeing life through an eternal lens and not a carnal one.
Grateful people focus on the blessings rather than the perceived injustices. They see God, not what the flesh would seek after. Knowing that He is truly the Lifegiver.
Today I am grateful that He isn’t fair. If He only dealt with me according to fairness, I could not know Him. I am grateful for His exposing the incorrect sense of entitlement both in my life and in His church. I know that as He exposes, He gives us opportunity to return to Him and find life. I am blessed today and thankful that He addresses my murmurings and calls them what they are, sin. His lovingkindness, leads us to repentance. He is a good God. I am grateful He calls me His own.
Susan Craig says:February 7, 2015 at 2:24 am
I am soo meant to be in this study group this year-this is another topic that was discussed in my home today. As a nation we have been so blessed. We look around us and we identify the fact that we are the rich people in this world if we just consider wealth. So why are Canadians so discontented-unsatisfied-grumbling about those we see around us that may have a bit more than us and coveting what others have all the while not recognizing or thanking God for all our blessings. It is a matter of perspective as well. Gratitude needs to be cultivated in our thoughts and in our hearts to become real in our lives. It does not take much to switch our perspective and change our attitudes especially these times that we live in.If anything, I would say we have too much. If we lived during the depression times, we would have a different perspective on wants and needs than what we have today. Sometimes I think we are too blessed because when our attitude changes from thankfulness to discontentment, our enjoyment of all the blessings we do have begins to disappear. We keep striving for more and never feel we have enough. That is not exactly what this parable is about but as Freda said,the result is still the same. Instead of being thankful for work,the early workers have a total reversal of attitude and it all takes place over just one day. We can wake up in the morning and choose to have thankfulness in our hearts and on our lips for a new day of life and we spring out of bed anticipatingly ready to take on the day but by suppertime, our whole attitude can be reversed and we are tired and the day was difficult and before we know it,we have sunk into unthankfulness. By the end of the workday, the workers that put in a full day were just like this-we are just like them if we are honest enough to admit it. When did it become OK for us to grumble about fairness to the God of creation, the One who blesses us all with so many blessings that we can not even count them all??? It is never OK to do that-ever. God answers to no one and His fairness is never up for debate. He is Who He is and that is His right-He does what He does and that is also His right. God is just,He is good to all those who call upon His name and confess their sin and turn from it-all of us are recipients of His grace which is so underserved yet He still gives it to us. Sometimes I think we need to grow up and stop comparing our lives to anyone elses-we can always find someone who has more than us or less than us to focus on-instead we need to remember where we would be without the grace of God and without the salvation provided to us in Jesus. Like children in the playground not wanting to share,we hold unto all we have with one hand while the other is reaching out with the constant search for more. God owns everything and He provides to each person according to what He sees as our need-not what we think we deserve. The gifts come from Him and the reward comes from Him-our job is to do the work He has given us to do, in the strength and ability He provides, without complaining, saying thank you to Him for it and actually mean it.
Pat McRae says:February 7, 2015 at 10:22 am
So what does this portion of Scripture have to do with “Gratitude”? What I see is murmuring, disappointment, jealousy, discouragement, burden and inferiority. Although it is not written here gratitude is evident when reading between the lines.
Can you imagine being in the first group of workers picked by the householder? So thankful, so happy, bragging about their good fortune to be hired and for a whole penny! Yes supper is going to be a feast tonight 🙂 But by the eleventh hour they are hot, tired. The work has been hard and they have worked hard for their penny. Now here come another bunch of lazy, good for nothing’s. Where have they been all day? Oh, ya sitting around doing nothing. Oh well, I am getting a whole penny for my work. Yes, I am blessed!
Then comes playtime. What changes? EXPECTATIONS!
Wow what is this? They have only been here for one hour and the householder has given them one penny. Can’t you just see the smile broadening and see the calculater come out and start ringing up the dollar signs? One hour=one penny. Twelve hours= oh that is too much, but just maybe. Just maybe, I have heard he is a good man and a fair employer. Even six whole pennies would be great. So with great expectation they wait for their name to be called and for their reward for all the hours they have worked. Yes my turn! I run up, stick my hand out! WHAT! A penny! Hey just a moment here I think you have made a mistake here. I have been here for eleven hours working hard, but I am just waved on.
And then there is the guy waiting all day to be picked. Many employers have come and each time he has jumped up, pushed to the front, but each time when they left he was still standing there. God what have I done that you by pass me every time? You know I always work hard. You know how many needs I have. How can I go home again with nothing but empty hands. Please God, please. But now it is the eleventh hour. Who will want someone for just one hour? Maybe I will just go home. Oh my family is going to be so disappointed in me 🙁 I have failed them again 🙁 I really am a nothing, so incapable of doing anything right 🙁 YES SIR! Yes sir I would love to work for one hour. I have wanted to work all day but was never picked. Oh thank You God! Thank You!
Wow playtime already! A whole penny! Wow! Are you sure sir I have only been here for one hour? But I am just waved on.
One leaves the householder, because of his expectations being low, happy, excited, rejoicing,wanting to tell everyone he meets how God came through for him today. His praises are heard all over town. The other leaves the householder, because of his high expectations, sad, angry, frustrated unable to be grateful for the provision he holds in his hand. There is no rejoicing in his heart or home tonight.
Today I believe God is saying to me:”Pat, watch your expectations, they can destroy a thankful, grateful attitude very quickly. Today let not the enemy steal your joy in the things that bless you because you have decided to compare reality to the what ifs and should of beens. Thankfulness and joy are sisters that feed off each other, you can not have one without the other. Keep your eyes on Me, remembering My goodness to you and compare not, with expectations, things that I have not promised you.”
And all I can say is “Yes Sir!” 🙂
Sue Holmes says:February 7, 2015 at 12:55 pm
Thank you this Pat. This speaks to me. I hadn’t thought of the two extremes … expectations too high/expectations too low. My mind has always gravitated towards the one with the high expectations. But what if the one waiting to get picked got discouraged, had no expectation of being picked, gave up and left early. He would have missed his opportunity to be blessed. It is the Master’s choice who He wants to work where, when and for how long. Usually in these illustrations that Christ uses, there are at least two groups of people represented, but it is so easy to miss one. Thanks for this fresh perspective. 🙂
Susan Craig says:February 7, 2015 at 3:21 pm
Thank you Pat-this is very insightful!!!
Jim Holmes says:February 7, 2015 at 1:44 pm
Today’s passages brings me back to the story of the prodigal son…which story speaks of a prodigal Father who lavishes everything on both His elder and His returning son. Both were lost, and both had their eyes on things (on their inheritance and what was owed them) and not on relationship, not of love for their Father who had an infinite love for them. Neither had the heart of their Father. Like the hired hands, one brother expected more, because He stayed at home helping His Father, attending to the care of the home, maintaining the operation and upkeep of the farm. The other brother lived a life of living as he wanted to, spending all he had. You would tend to think that the elder son, like the hired hand who worked the longest would deserve more. However, in both stories, the Father, and the owner of the vineyard treated the sons, the servants, the same. In both stories you have complaining about the Father’s heart analysis of the situation and grumbling against the landowner. Neither had the best interest of the one who gave sustenance to their lives, and none had placed value on the relationship. Personal gain verses what the Fathers had. Personal gain verses the owners gain. Both the Vineyard and Inheritance belong to our God, our Father. Jesus said, that God, His Father, gave us to Him, and He gives us back to the Father. Without God, we are lost, and have nothing. We are poor, naked, and blind. God is our Provider and relationship with Him is Life. All that we have comes from the heart of God, not His pocket. God looks upon the heart of man, not because he looks good, or bad, or rich, or poor. Such things are stumbling blocks in the eyes of man. All mankind has fallen…having disobeyed God, sinned, fallen out of relationship with the One who created all things, and us…..we have all sinned, and all have the same penalty of death without a Savior. It is Jesus who paid the “same price” for you, for your friend, for you servant, for your boss. If you accept this payment, do you complain because your friend is squandering his life in Christ and God has blessed Him more than you, or because he received Christ long after you and God has done dramatic things in his life. Do you and I have the heart of our Father? Did He not give us all things that pertain to life and godliness in Christ. Are you not part of His precious Family? Dear God, we need our Father’s heart. You loved. You gave your Son. Your Son paid the cost of our sin debt. Because we do what we think is good, or right, and what another does is wrong or bad…we are both lost without you Jesus. You, Jesus paid the same for both. Thank you for a restored relationship with You, with God, our Father, and with our brothers or sisters in Christ. Amen.
Susan Craig says:February 7, 2015 at 3:25 pm
Thank you Jim-this has much meaning for me-someday I hope I can tell you a story about 2 sisters(Jane and Susan) that could well have been these 2 sisters(Mary and Martha).
Susan Craig says:February 7, 2015 at 3:26 pm
Please add this to the comment above:
or about these 2 brothers.
Susan Craig says:February 7, 2015 at 3:12 pm
One final 2 cents worth of thought from me because I can not seem to let this one go and move on. I understand what you all have written and have learned much from all you have written here. I have recieved insight and am compelled to share it. While counting our blessings is important-we also need to change our focus from our blessings to the One from Whom all blessings flow. Gratitude may start with being thankful for all we have been given because we recognize that we deserve none of it-period. But to leave it at that point fails to grasp the full message. Like the 10 lepers that had all been healed of their leporosy only one of them returned to say thank you to the One who had cured them of this horrible disease. Just 1 out of 10!! He recieved the greater blessing for recognizing from Whom this blessing had come and He was filled with gratitude not just for being healed but also for the Healer. The focus needs to be on the Giver of every blessing we receive-even the air we breathe is not ours,our lives are not ours,we own NOTHING that God has graciously given to us-Nothing is ours. ALL we have is from HIM. The best response we can ever give is this: Thank God not only for the blessings in our lives,and thank Him for life itself- but most importantly,thank Him for being God-Thank God for God Himself!!! God wants us to glorify Him-this is our purpose for existitng at all. Is this because He is narcissistic????No,not at all. He alone is Worthy to recieve our gratitude-period. Any gift He gives comes from the very essence of Who He is. Praise the Giver of the gifts-He alone is worthy and deserves our praise. Do we just thank God for the blessings or do we thank God for being God??? Is this what the Lord is revealing to me-is this what I am meant to learn???Is this why I am here in this place at this moment in time to finally hear and to finally understand??? If believe it is,and I do, then my only correct response is to obey what He is telling me -obey Him by thanking and praising God for being Who He is and praise Him for EVERYTHING He has given. I hear you LORD!!!!! My view of God has been corrected and He is so magnified in my understanding that finally I am silent-there is nothing more I can say-or even should say.
Sue Holmes says:February 7, 2015 at 10:21 pm
One thing I have become aware of through this scripture is how much of an ‘expert’ I seem to think I am at giving God direction as to how I am supposed to live my life. Really, this comes down to arrogance and an ungrateful spirit. Since I first sat in the wheelchair, I have been telling God that I really should be elsewhere & doing something other than He had me doing at the time. I would sulk and pout about the things I no longer could do rather than thank Him for His provision. Granted, the things I crave and miss … such as working in my flower beds, walking up the steps to a friends home to visit, going for October walks on the beach or simply carrying a coffee out to the deck at sunrise to pray & mediate on the Word … weren’t bad things. From the proper perspective they are wonderful activities that my friends enjoy at will. Perspective is the key issue here. I have spent time focusing on the perceived injustices rather than thank Him for each of the bllessings He has sent my way. That which we focus on eventually will become our object of worship.
When the people in this scripture turned their focus from their Master to their co-workers their attitude changed. This happens more than we might care to admit. In John 21, during one of Peter’s final conversations with Christ on this side of the ascension Peter (referring to John) asks Jesus, “What about him?”. Jesus answer was simply “That’s not your concern. You follow me.”
I have been guilty of focusing on ‘the other guy’ rather than on Christ too often. When I look at what is going on around me and what God has protected me from I, too, have every reason to be grateful. When I look at how He has provided for me every step of the way, I have every reason to be grateful. When I consider that Christ’s death on the cross was as much for me as for anyone else, I have more reason to be grateful.
God is good indeed. He has never let me down. He has never left me alone. He has provided every need. Tonight I am thankful that He never gave up on me. I am thankful for words of wisdom such as “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6. Simple words that I learned as a child and lost sight of when I became full of ‘my own wisdom’. I am thankful for all His blessings. I am also thankful for the ‘struggles’ that have lead me to this point.