God’s Amazing Grace

Beitzel 2009 Beqa and Lebanon Mountains 22

Reading the Word

Matthew 20:1–16 (ESV)

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 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.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this parable, Jesus tells a story about different workers who were hired to work in a vineyard. The master of the house hired workers at the beginning of the day and agreed to pay them a denarius for a day of labor. A denarius was the standard pay for a day of work. A few hours later, at 9:00 AM, the master hired more workers. He did the same at noon, 3:00 PM, and at 5:00 PM. Each time hiring more workers and promising to give them fair pay for their work. A typical work day was 6:00 AM until 6:00 PM.

At the end of the day, the workers went to receive their pay. Those hired last, at 5:00 PM had only worked for an hour, but they received a denarius as pay. When those hired at the beginning of the day saw that the late-comers received a denarius, they thought they would receive more. They were mistaken. The master paid all of the workers the same. It did not matter when they started. This angered the workers who were hired early in the morning. They believed they deserved more! The master explained to the workers that he paid them exactly what he told them he was going to when he hired them. If he chose to pay others the same, why should it be an issue?

The lesson of this parable is that God’s servants should not spend their time comparing themselves with other servants. God is generous to all of his people and gives us all far more than we deserve. God is a God of amazing grace and his mercies are new every morning. Take the time to reflect on the Lord’s goodness and thank him for it.

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God Is Just

Luke 181 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 18:1–8 (ESV)

1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Some read this parable and understand it to mean that if we bother God enough by continuing to ask him for something, that he will eventually give us what we want. Is that really what this is saying? Can we wear God down by asking him over and over again? I do not think that is Jesus’ point.

A better way to understand Jesus’ teaching here is to know that Jesus is not saying the judge is like God, but that he is unlike him. This is a parable of contrast. The judge is unrighteous. God is perfectly righteous. So, if an unrighteous judge will eventually do what is right when asked, how much more will the righteous Judge (i.e. God) do what is right – and it will not be necessary to wear him down to get him to do it either! Jesus was teaching us that we can trust in God to be righteous and judge wickedness in the end. We can turn to him in prayer and trust in him each and every day even in the difficult times. The righteous Judge will do what is right.

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A Story About a Lover of Money

Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door

The Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man’s Door (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 16:19–31 (ESV)

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Often mistaken as a historical account, this parable is commonly referred to as The Rich Man and Lazarus. Jesus is still addressing the Pharisees who Luke calls “lovers of money.” Luke’s Gospel speaks a great deal about the proper place of money and possessions and warns about covetousness. Jesus calls us to use our wealth for the glory of God and to further the kingdom rather than hoarding it for our own selfish desires.

The parable describes a poor man named Lazarus and an unnamed rich man. Lazarus, who was also covered in sores, was a beggar who desired to eat some of the food that would fall from the rich man’s plate. When the two died, Lazarus is ushered to the side of Abraham with the people of God. The rich man, on the other hand, went to Hades and was in constant torment every day. This would have been quite shocking since wealth was seen as the blessing of God and poverty, God’s curse. Jesus’ hearers would have expected opposite fates for the rich man and Lazarus.

In Hades, the rich man called out for relief, but none was granted. Instead, he was told that he had enjoyed all of his good things in life. Rather than obey the Scriptures by loving others such as Lazarus and putting the things of God first, the rich man had lived selfishly with no regard for God or others. As a result, God’s judgment had fallen upon him and it was fixed.

Jesus spoke a great deal about our attitude towards wealth because our attitude towards money and possessions is a key indicator of our relationship with the Lord. When our relationship with the Lord is healthy, money is understood as a tool that is necessary for life in this world and as an opportunity for us to glorify God. We can use our wealth to further the kingdom of God in the world by helping the poor, giving to our church, or supporting missionaries on the field, etc. However, if we cling too tightly to our money and think of it only as our own, we reveal that we have an idol. All we have is the Lord’s and how we use it tells us a great deal about ourselves.

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The Shrewd Use of Possessions

money pink coins pig

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Luke 16:1–9 (ESV)

1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This is a parable that lends itself to some debate. A manager is discovered mismanaging his master’s possessions. When this happens, the manager quickly goes to his master’s debtors and forgives portions of their debt. He does this to get into the good graces of others so he will have a better chance of employment when he loses his current position. When the master found out about this, he commended the manager for his shrewdness.

The parable poses difficulty because it is strange to us why the master would commend the manager for what he did. After all, he cost the master profit. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, this is a parable and the details do not have to reflect what we would expect in real life. The story is meant to teach a specific lesson and the details point to that lesson. Also, the master does not commend the manager for his actions, but for his shrewdness. The manager acted in such a way to look out for his future. The master recognized this forward-looking behavior and acknowledged it.

Jesus finished the parable by telling his disciples that they too needed to be shrewd in how they used “unrighteous wealth”. Possessions have a way of being used for our own self interests and pulling us away from the most important things in life. Instead, we should be always looking to the future in our use of wealth and possessions, knowing that one day we will give an account before the Lord in how we have used these things for the glory of God and his kingdom. How can we use our possessions shrewdly for the Lord?

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A Pesky Friend at Midnight

accuracy afternoon alarm clock analogue

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Luke 11:5–8 (ESV)

5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told a parable of a person who went to his friend’s home at midnight. The reason he went was to ask for some bread. As you probably imagine, the person inside the home was already in bed, as were the children of the home. What was the result? The man got up and gave his friend what he came for. Why did he do this? Well, Jesus tells us that he did it not because he was his friend, but because of the visitor’s “impudence.” The word has the idea of persistence and urgency. It was not the friendship that was the deciding factor in getting the homeowner out of bed to help this man, but the urgency of the need.

Jesus told this parable as he continued to teach his disciples about prayer. He was not saying that we need to be persistent in our prayers to coerce God into action, but that the urgency of our needs is reflected by persistence and that God knows the urgency of the matters that we bring to him. We can be confident that God hears and answers our prayers and will not ignore us in our time of need. So, continue in persistent prayer to the Father, the one who cares for his children.

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The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 10:25–37 (ESV)

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

We always try to justify ourselves. We go to great lengths to explain why we make the decisions that we do and why we are rarely, if ever, wrong. The lawyer who spoke to Jesus in this passage was no different. He knew the requirements of the law, but he wanted to justify himself by defining the word “neighbor” in narrow sense. So, when he asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus’ response was surprising.

In response to the lawyer’s question, Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The shocking elements of the story are that the religious leaders failed to show compassion towards a man in need and a Samaritan man is the hero. Samaritans and Jews did not get along (cf. John 4:9). The Samaritans were half-Jew and half-Assyrian as a result of intermarriage after the Jewish exile at the hands of the Assyrians. The southern Jews, who had maintained their Jewish bloodlines, thought of them as second class. The lawyer who asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” certainly did not think of the Samaritans as his neighbor.

Jesus’ parable taught the lawyer that we should love and show compassion towards all people, regardless of race, religion, social background, or anything else. We too must learn this lesson. Who is our neighbor? What group(s) of people do you find it hard to love? Jesus will not allow us to justify being unloving towards others. May God soften our hearts to love all people as he loves them.

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Forgiving as We Have Been Forgiven

col3-13

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Matthew 18:23–35 (ESV)

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”