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Parable of the Workers – The Unmerited Grace of God

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Ezekiel 34:1–11 • Psalm 22(23) • Matthew 20:1–16

We do not earn salvation by our good deeds; rather we are saved by reliance on God’s grace.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew words hen and hesed are used to describe this generosity of God. Hen is the quality of benevolence of one who is highly placed turning to help one in need; hesed is steadfast love and spontaneous, faithful goodness in a relationship.  These words were later translated as ‘grace’.

God revealed himself to Moses as ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love...’ (Exod. 34:6).  The Jews gradually came to understand and rely on this gracious love of God: his goodness in choosing them from all other people to be his own, his gift of the land of Canaan – their whole history was proof to them. The prophets came to realise that the deepest demonstration of God’s grace was his promise of interior renewal, the gift of a new heart and the forgiveness of sins that he would accomplish by the Messiah.

Paul constantly preached the truth that we are saved not by our own righteousness but through faith in Jesus. ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, . . . even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ . . . For by grace you have been saved through faith . . . not because of works, lest any man should boast’ (Eph. 2:4–5, 8–9).

This attitude of rejoicing in the unmerited grace of God is in contrast with the jealousy and resentment of the workers in Jesus’s parable who have laboured throughout the day: though they have earned a just wage, they demand a share in the generosity of their employer (God) as a right. They forget the initial gratitude they had in finding employment.

Jesus is warning us not to fall into this self—righteous trap, thinking our own moral efforts are more important than God’s grace. As we remind ourselves of how much God has done for us, our hearts will begin to fill with gratitude. Then we shall not care so much who is last or first, or how long we have been working, because we shall know the Father’s faithful love for us.

‘Every day I will bless thee, and praise thy name for ever.’  (P5. 145:2)

Chris
 
 
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