Having a whinge!
Matthew 20:1-16

Today I want to talk about having a whinge.  We’re all pretty good at it aren’t we?  The workers who were hired early in the parable certainly weren’t afraid of having a good whinge, and neither are we.  When we think we are hard done by or that someone else has got a better deal than us we generally start to have a whinge and moan about it to someone, sometimes they join in with the whingeing and other times it’s the last thing they want to be hearing.  Some people are perennial whingers and can even wind up being seen as someone to be avoided, as a little bit ‘toxic’ to come into contact with.  We’ll hopefully discover through the parable though that the workers really had nothing to whinge about, the deal was more than fair and they received what they had signed on for.

Earlier this week I excitedly prepared for the release of fan club presale tickets to a concert that isn’t happening until March next year.  I wanted to get the best seats in the house, so that my family and I can have the ultimate concert experience, very much like a concert I went to last year and had third row seats.  There was no floor plan available for Rod Laver Arena so I accepted the tickets allocated to me less than two minutes after the presale had begun, I was excited to say the least, section A row B, seats 11-14.  That puts us almost in the middle of the second row back from the stage.  You couldn’t ask for a better spot.  Then on Friday I realised that the sale to the general public was about to start so I checked the Ticketek website to see if a floor plan was available yet for the concert.  When I checked and the plan came up I was excited, there were our seats in a great spot, then I realised that for this concert there is a T-shaped catwalk that will allow the artists to walk out past us to the left and then even behind us!  There was a little indignation and jealousy when I realised that people with seemingly worse seats might actually get a better view and experience than we might.  It wasn’t until I stopped and thought about it and I connected it with this parable that I realised everyone else on the floor section had paid the same price for their tickets and that by having a T-shaped catwalk the artists have provided a better and fairer concert experience for a greater percentage of their fans.  This is extremely gracious and fair for all of us, and we should be grateful and thankful that they have finally decided to make their way to Australia from America.

I’m sure many of you could relate similar stories where you’ve felt you had a great deal only to find out that others had received an equal or even better deal than you.  Would anyone like to share?

The workers that were hired early in the day agreed to the terms offered by the owner of the vineyard, they did their day’s work and discovered that others had been hired later in the day, even as late as just an hour before knock off time and were not only being paid before them but receiving the same amount.  They were looking at things from their perspective, fairness or lack thereof was what they were whingeing about.  But the vineyard owner had given them what they had agreed to, he had paid them fairly.  It was his choice to either negotiate rates with the other workers or give to them what he thought was fair, and he did.

They were questioning the owner’s generosity, but it was his money and his right to share it around as he saw fit.  The first hired hands had slaved away in the middle of the hot sun, but the others had remained patient, they had hung around in the market place hoping that someone would come along to hire them.  Their needs were equal to the others who were hired earlier, they probably had families to feed and bills to pay just like the rest of them.  They hadn’t been lazy, they had waited and hoped and the owner had rewarded their patience.

These men were of course more than happy with the result, they had received an awesome deal, they had been hired, and they had received a day’s wages and were able to go home to their families with the good news of the owner’s generosity.  I’m sure that word of mouth would have kicked into action and the news would have spread quickly. 

Generally bad news and gossip spread faster than good news, but the good news that is at the core of this parable has continued to spread throughout the centuries.  So what is the good news that this parable is actually teaching? 

Quite simply the good news is that there is nothing we can do to earn the right to enter the kingdom of God.  It doesn’t matter when we got or will get on board, it doesn’t matter whether we slave away from daybreak until dusk or just sign on as the sun is sinking close to the horizon, the reward is the same for each of us.  God has a gift for us not as payment for services rendered, not even for patience and turning up, it is pure gift, forgiveness of sins and life forever with him.  We all receive the same and that is nothing ordinary or simple like a day’s wages, this is eternal life, a mansion prepared for us in heaven.  No more tears, no more crying, this gift is so large and mind blowing that we could never do enough to earn it.  So God through his Son Jesus did the earning for us.  He did the work of taking our sins to the cross as sacrifice for our sake, now we simply receive the gift that he earned for us freely.

Now do you think that is something to whinge about or be thankful for?  Sometimes you will meet a Christian who will have a bit of a moan about cheap grace and it not being fair that God forgives everyone who believes and is baptised.  They want to see the good works, people doing the hard yards for Jesus.  But it is free gift, something to be truly wholeheartedly grateful and thankful for.

We’ve all turned up late for work, been hired to do whatever we can in response to God’s gift to us, and to go home and tell everyone else about what a wonderful and giving God we have.  No matter how you tell the story the gift remains the same, give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever.

Amen