The boundary of serving
Matthew 20:1-16; BCBC/IOUC; 3/28/2021; Rev. Paul Wang
What is serving? Why is there a boundary to serve the Lord? Have you thought about this? Can’t we just be faithful to God and just do whatever we want to do? Actually we cannot do so! Boundary is the mark in God’s creation, it is the dividing line between wisdom and ignorance, and it shows the relationship between God and people. Let’s see the first point:
The concept of a covenant
Have you ever thought about the difference between a covenant and a contract? The essence of a covenant is commitment, and the element of a contract is equality, right? First, having a covenant with a landowner. Don’t forget, actually the landowner also works. A person who is married and settled down to a job, usually gets up early and seldom sleeps late, do you agree? The landowner that Jesus talked about， is a person who gets up early. He went out to find workers in the early morning and set a covenant with them. Who is the person who set a covenant with the landowner? He also gets up early and meets with the landowner in the covenant. Since Adam, through the Old Testament and the New Testament, God let His elects meet with Him, love each other, set the covenant, and walk together on the heavenly path. Dear brother and sisters, do you have a covenant with God? Are you keeping the covenant established with Him?
Second, commit to each other. A denarius for the day，and work in his vineyard, isn’t it clear? After a day of work, we receive a denarius, is there a problem? If the landowner does not pay or if the worker does not work, then there is a problem, right? God calls us to enter into His kingdom, and set a covenant with us, is a relationship of committing to each other. Lord Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross and died for us, our commitment is to live for Christ. As for God’s commitment to us, He already finished. Now is the time for us to commit to Him. To treat ourself as a living sacrifice is a commitment of life. To spread the gospel is a commitment of mission. To bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit is a commitment of walking with God.
Lastly, space outside the covenant. God sets the covenant with us one person at a time, do you understand? Let me say one more time, God sets a covenant of a group with each one of us. This means that other than each individual sets a covenant with God, God still has a space, in the same covenant to have a covenant relation with another individual. The importance is, this space of God does not have a direct relationship with us. God can set a covenant with me in the early morning, He can set a covenant with you at noon, and set a covenant with him in the afternoon and these are irrelevant to one another. A church member told me, ”I only said a false sentence, but a classmate next door said 10 false sentences. How come we received the same punishment? This is not fair!” I said, “You need to be responsible for the one false sentence you said, and you do not need to be responsible for the ten false sentences the other person said. You have your own covenant, another person has his own covenant, each person is responsible for his own covenant. Let’s see the second point:
The object to be responsible for
It is very important to be clear about the object to be responsible for, do you agree? It is necessary to bear one’s own responsibility in life is probably the most important common sense in life, right? First, be responsible for the landowner. To be responsible for the boss at work, is there a problem with this? In the early morning, the boss was waiting for you at the front gate of the vineyard, and saw your healthy and strong outlook and good characters, after the observations then signed the covenant with you. Can you understand it? Are your words and deeds worthy of the image you left with your boss? The Bible also asks whether we are worthy of the gospel that we believe, are you worthy of it? Christians not only need to be responsible for their boss at the workplace; furthermore, through being responsible for the visible boss in order to express to give account to the unseen God. Therefore, to give an account is the highest form of being responsible.
Second, be responsible for the wage. The Bible says, the landowner “agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. (Matthew 20:2)” Don’t overlook the one denarius, this represents a day’s wage. When I settled down in the countryside as an educated youth in China, each day I got ten workpoint. For different production teams, each ten workpoint has different values. Some worth 19 cents for ten workpoint a day, and some worth 50 cents for ten workpoint a day. The production team I worked is 39 cents for ten workpoint a day. Actually the main topic is not the amount of money, the key is that you have to be responsible to finish daily work no matter what. Later when I became a soldier, every month I received a six dollars allowance and I thought I was already pretty rich. In the second year, a new soldier received 7 dollars per month for his first year. Is it fair? Why didn’t they join the army one year before? Or should the nation make up the difference of the previous year to us? Do you notice what the problem is? If you could choose, you can say it before you go! Or you can even just don’t go! It is agreeable to a denarius for the day, there is nothing wrong with the boss, the problem is you, right? If you cannot be responsible for one day’s wage, how can you bear even greater responsibilities?
Lastly, be responsible for the working hour. The Jews say, if a person can be responsible for money and time, then basically he is a responsible person. After talking about money, now let’s talk about time. It was agreeable for one day, then it is one day, right? Doing farm work is exhausting, so the hoe was erected on the ground when feeling tired. people would lean on the handle of the hoe to rest. Farmers call this action “hold the wind”, meaning being lazy, not working. Of course it is no problem to take some rest. However, if a person “holds the wind” for a longer time than the working hour, then he is an irresponsible person, is that you? Let’s see the third point:
The sublimation of mindset
Often times we say, attitude determines altitude, do you agree? What kind of a person you are determined by your mindset of life, do you also agree? As a matter of fact, Jesus Christ actually demonstrates a show to us. God is watching, people are watching, Satan is watching too. What about you? Do you also see it? First, the goodness of life. In the verses, Jesus put in a kind of goodness. Do you see what it is? That is, when you see others receive benefit, do you feel thankful for them? Do you feel thankful when others do not have hard labor like you? We worked for a whole day and received one denarius. You worked for only one hour and also received one denarius. That is great! I am thankful for you! If you have such goodness in your heart, I want to congratulate you, and feel thankful for you! Unless it is given by God, mankind does not have this kind of goodness. If you have it, do not boast about it! If you do not have it, you should pray to God!
Second, deceitfulness in heart. The Bible says, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? This is our true old nature, right? A deceitful person, for sure is the one who always complains, agree? Those who came to work in the early morning grumbled 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 20:12) ” Do you know what they are thinking? They are coveting the landowner’s authority to determine the wage and working hour. But the words that came out of their mouth mentioned whether it is fair. Our working hours are different! It sounds specious, stealing concept, right? Quickly the landowner draw a boundary with them, and said, What does this have to do with you? I spent my own money, I did the things I am willing to do, What does this have to do with you? Why are you envious because of the deceitfulness in your heart?
Lastly, wisdom in spirit. In here, Jesus gave a conclusion, So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matthew 20:16)” This is the good will of God! If your life falls behind, then try to catch up! If you walk at the front, then bring the one behind to the front. Would this be so different? The law in the world is just the opposite, people will always step on you when you are unlucky so that you could never stand up! People in Christ are so different! For to us, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Thank the Lord, today’s sermon is finished. The reason we serve the Lord is because we have a covenant with Him. He keeps the covenant and shows us His kindness, we keep the covenant for Him and be faithful. We serve the Lord in order to be responsible for Him. Through the wage and working hour to live out our faithfulness to God. Lord, we thank you! For You want to give us the sublimation of mindset, and you want us to live out “the last will be first, and the first will be last!”