The Comparison Game
Sermon for Septuagesima, Jan. 24, 2016
Vicar Brad Akey

Complaining has become fundamental to humans. Whether we are complaining about work, relationships, our schedule, our studies, our future, our past, politics, the church, or even something as simple as the gas prices, we find something to complain about. We do this despite knowing that we should be content with what we have. We learn this from the 9th and 10th Commandments. Yet just as we break each of the other Commandments regularly, we break these two just as easily. Complaining also happens in today’s Gospel reading.


After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. An agreement was struck, the laborers would work for a full day and they would receive a day’s wage, a single denarius. No one was taking advantage of the other. No one was cheated or tricked. But the master wanted more to be included, so He goes out and sees others standing idle in the marketplace. These idle ones are those standing and resting in their sin. They are those who have not yet heard the call of the master. This is the pool from which the master chooses to recruit his workers. Those who are lost and are serving no purpose, that is who the master chooses to gather up to Himself.
 

The Comparison Game
Sermon for Septuagesima, Jan. 24, 2016
Vicar Brad Akey

Complaining has become fundamental to humans. Whether we are complaining about work, relationships, our schedule, our studies, our future, our past, politics, the church, or even something as simple as the gas prices, we find something to complain about. We do this despite knowing that we should be content with what we have. We learn this from the 9th and 10th Commandments. Yet just as we break each of the other Commandments regularly, we break these two just as easily. Complaining also happens in today’s Gospel reading.


After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. An agreement was struck, the laborers would work for a full day and they would receive a day’s wage, a single denarius. No one was taking advantage of the other. No one was cheated or tricked. But the master wanted more to be included, so He goes out and sees others standing idle in the marketplace. These idle ones are those standing and resting in their sin. They are those who have not yet heard the call of the master. This is the pool from which the master chooses to recruit his workers. Those who are lost and are serving no purpose, that is who the master chooses to gather up to Himself.


The master recruits all the way through to the eleventh hour, including those who had not borne the heat of a full day’s work. Yet the master has called them and they respond to their master’s call. He was exceedingly generous! At the end of the day, the Lord distributes out to all those He called. Notice the change of address here.  The Lord has not cheated them, He did not take advantage of them, yet some feel cheated. And on receiving it they grumbled.


What right do they have to grumble? The Lord has given what He promised them. If no others had been called, and they would have been the only ones paid, would they have complained? No, because that was a good and right payment. It is when they look out and compare themselves to others that they stumble. When they take their eyes off of the Lord and look to others around them, they feel entitled to more. The Lord responds by saying, Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?


Jesus here is describing our entire life and the whole present world. For we know that we are in the last hour now. John tells us in his first epistle, Children, it is the last hour. Yet even in this last hour we want to compare ourselves to others. Do we envy, when God gives something to another, as if it were taken away from us? This covetousness and comparison leads us into spiritual disaster! Our sinful nature wants to say that we deserve more, that we are entitled to more, that we merit more. The laborers begrudge His generosity, just as we often do, and despise the fact that He was not fair in what He gave.


Thank God that He is not fair in what He gives us! Fairness does not end well for us. If fairness is our goal, then we would be crucified, we would be forsaken, we would be judged and found guilty. Based upon our merit, we have no hope. But God is not fair, rather He is gracious and merciful—abounding in steadfast love! God is keeping and fulfilling His promises! This text does not picture anyone who receives less than the master promised. It rather pictures an exceedingly generous master who provides all that is needed for all whom He calls. He is the one who provides the hope we have, hope in His Savior.


That is the same hope we all have, all Christians. Whether it is one who truly trusts in the righteousness found only in Christ Jesus who is Roman Catholic, WELS, LCMS, Anglican, or a Biblical Father, we have one hope together.  For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,  and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,  and all ate the same spiritual food,  and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.


Think back to that change of title from master to Lord. Throughout the parable the controlling figure has been called the master. But when the promises are distributed, He is labeled as Lord. This aids our understanding of the parable’s meaning and points to the real-life referent: Jesus. He who has borne the burden of the day and who has suffered the scorching heat for us shares the treasure that we do not deserve, with us.


In Christ’s upside down kingdom, He has made us all equal. No one has a different baptism, gospel, faith, sacrament, or a different Christ and God. Jesus is the one giving to them what is promised, the denarius, and to us what is promised—salvation. This is something which makes no sense to us. In this passing world we have rankings and authorities, and we need them, for that is how society is run. Because of this, we often place those who contribute most, those we value most, first. This then can lead us down paths of neglect for the unborn, the handicapped, and the aged. But before God, all matter, all are equal. God instead flips what the world thinks to be right, for He says in Isaiah “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”


We would not be saved if His ways were our ways. He tells his disciples and us, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” It was the Father’s will that Jesus, who should be first, become last, in order that we become first. It was His will that Jesus give His body for our spiritual food. It was His will that Jesus shed His blood for our spiritual drink. We who were lost are now, in the eyes of God a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.


The Lord helps us to keep our eyes on the master who called us, and not gazing about for others to compare ourselves with.  Comparison is a false and deadly game.  It can rob you of the joy of Christ in you and fill you with envy.  Conversely, it can fill your heart with ugly pride and fault-finding in others.  The Lord help us to keep our eyes fixed on Him who has His eyes fixed on us in steadfast, forgiving love.


In fact, His love for you is incomparable!  His love for you bore the heat of the day of God’s wrath leaving you with a future of incomparable blessing.  His love for you brings Him into your presence again today to speak peace to you – incomparable peace – peace in the Father’s heart by the blood shed on His Son’s cross – peace the risen and ascended Christ continues to speak.  By His call you are at work in this day of salvation in His kingdom. 


When the day seems long – when the sun seems hot – when the load seems heavy – when the suffering seems great – this remains true – nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:39)  Indeed – In Him – the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us. (Rom 8:18) Because of the one true sacrifice, we are all brought into and sustained in the one true faith, which ends with the fulfillment of His promised denarius, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a