Tuesday, July 10, 2007



Matthew 20:20-28

20 Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 21 "What is it you want?" he asked. She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." 22 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" "We can," they answered. 23 Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father."

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

John Calvin calls ambition, "a concealed flame." It exists in each of us, striving for acclaim, power, position, and attention. The concealed flame of ambition can be easily fueled when losing sight of the cross for visions of personal glory. If those closest to Christ fell prey to ambition, then we too must guard against its grip on our lives.

In my experience it is not just ambition that is the problem. The most extensive problem seems to be an optical one-THE BIG "I". So far in recent days in Matthew we've seen a man whose wealth had become his god and therefore came between him and following Jesus. We now see 2 brothers desiring certain positions in the kingdom-on the right and on the left. When it's all about ME, then it just isn't about JESUS.

Without a doubt the greatest disappointment to me has been watching men and women be more concerned about themselves and their conveniences than about spreading the movement of Jesus and His kingdom. There is more interest in a certain musical bent, the dazzle of a beautiful facility, the promotion of another program, the crowd, all giving a false sense of spirituality to spectating rather than participating! My heart continues to be broken by good people who want to sit in comfortable positions such as James and John-good people with a twisted perspective on what's most important.

Jesus makes it absolutely clear that we are here, not to be served, but to serve. We are not here to seek a position in the Kingdom that allows us to be passive observers. To be great in the kingdom is to find your position as a servant-that's a participator, not a spectator! So, are you in the stands watching or on the field in the action?



Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus goes into His typical formula of "the kingdom is like" to introduce this parable. Let's examine it to see what the Kingdom is like: 1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 "About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5 So they went.

"He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'

7 " 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. 
"He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.' 8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his supervisor, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'

9 "The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 'These men 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.'

13 "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Nobody was cheated. No one was underpaid. In fact, some were overpaid. The complaint of the early workers offered no evidence of wrongdoing. Their complaint was based in jealousy and envy.

The landowner had the right to "overpay" the late workers. He said "whatever is right you will receive." He determined what was right, not based on ordinary human accounting, but grace. His overpayment of the late workers was his choice and nobody could argue he didn't have that right.

There are two basic points to this parable that come to mind. FIRST-What counts in the kingdom of God is not seniority or years of service, but a diligent heart.

SECOND-All people, no matter when they come into the Kingdom, are equally valuable to God.

NOTE that Jesus bookends this passage in an interesting way. In the last verse of Matthew 19 Jesus says, "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." Then, at the end of this section Jesus says, "So the last will be first and the first will be last."

In the Kingdom all moves to the beat of a different drummer and that drummer is Jesus. There are no positions or comparisons to be made in the Kingdom. Living in the Kingdom is all about your relationship with the King and doing what He calls you to do. He will reward you with His grace and acceptance. It's none of your business how He relates to others. You must focus on your personal relationship with Jesus as you wait for Him to lead out with orders and opportunities. He may call you into service all day or at the last minute. But when Jesus calls, be sure to DO WHAT HE SAYS to do.