What Contract Do You Have With God?

Dear Reader,

In our adult Sunday school class we have been discussing grace. The parable of the workers in the vineyard who get hired at different times of day (Matthew 20:1-16) has come up a number of times. The short take on it is that the workers hired at the end of the day get paid the same as those hired at the beginning and this shows God’s graciousness.

My take on the parable is that there is a little more going on here. In the previous chapter, Jesus was confronted by the rich, young ruler who said he had kept the commandments and asked what more he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells the man to sell all he has and follow him. The man won’t do it and goes away sad. This is followed immediately by the disciples saying to Jesus, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” (Matt. 19:27). Now I know the disciples often get things wrong but I don’t think they are just asking what is in it for them this time. I think they are sincere. Jesus’ response to them is encouraging, not rebuking. He says, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” (Matt. 19:28-29.

So here is my take on all this: There are two ways to approach God. The rich young ruler is like those hired first in the day in the vineyard parable. They are given a wage and they work for it. The rich young ruler has been given a list of commands and he obeys them. And they earn what they work for. But the disciples, though far from perfect, did not come to God with a deal. They are like the late in the day workers. Jesus said “Come” and they followed without asking the wages or the price. And they will be rewarded. It is the classic contrast between law and grace. If you try to live under the law, you get what you earn (and we know that none of us can keep the law perfectly and the wages of sin are death). But if you do not try to earn anything from God, but come to Him and follow simply because He calls and rely on His grace, then He will be gracious to you, forgiving your sins and giving you His righteousness and eternal life.

What God calls us to is so easy. He does it all for us. And yet we all seem to want to pay our own way, at least in part. Why is that?  Why are we more comfortable with laws(which we always ultimately fail to keep) than with a God who wants to give us salvation? Is it pride that makes us want to do it ourselves? Are we afraid to be so humble that we say we have nothing to offer God? We are always adding, adding, adding on.



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