Updated: May 5, 2020
Today in church the focus of the pastor's message was the parable of the workers in the vineyard found in Mark 20:1-16:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 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?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble 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.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The main theme of this parable is to point out that regardless of when people choose to accept and follow Jesus, the reward of that decision is the same for all followers. When our time on earth comes to an end all of us will get to live in heaven, in a perfect eternity. In this same chapter, we see the mother of James and John asking for her sons to receive "priority status" in heaven. This entire chapter shows that we are all equals in God's eyes.
While this is obviously a worthwhile lesson to learn and point to be made, I'd like us to focus on another aspect of this story. As the pastor was presenting the above perspective, an entirely different life lesson caught my eye. I became fascinated with Mark 20:7 which I have put in bold font above.
Notice that when the master, who we know is representing God, returns to the marketplace he asks the servants there why they are just standing around. They tell him that they are standing around because they had no jobs to do. They wanted to work, but didn't know what was available.
I thought on this for the remainder of the church service. If the master or owner of the vineyard is God, the servants or workers looking to be hired are us, the people. The vineyard is the earth which God has called us to get involved in. The work we are asked to do for God is spreading the gospel. All of us start out just like those men in the marketplace- we are wanting to put ourselves to good use but we don't know how. Jesus puts us to good use, he gives us purpose. He guides us into the world to serve him. But the story isn't just about us, the story is also about others. Jesus doesn't go to the marketplace only one time, he continues to go there. As I contemplated this, I realized that the people who have been standing around all day in the marketplace are the people in the world who have not discovered God's work for them yet. They are the people we need to be witnessing to.
Why weren't they working yet? Because no one had hired them.
As I discovered this small but fascinating detail I was reminded of the great needs we see in our world today. People are so broken. Sometimes when we as Christians see other people who don't know God, we feel nervous. We don't want to approach them with the gospel for fear that they aren't interested. We are afraid that they will shun us. We are afraid we will come across as, "too religious". We are afraid we will be associated with the negative aspects of Christianity. Yet, this parable tells us that people are not necessarily lacking the Gospel because they aren't interested... but because no one has "hired" them. They want to know, but have not been told.
This should really open our eyes to the desperate need and urgency for sharing our faith. I don't mean sharing our habits or our religion, but rather sharing our faith- the driving force behind our church attendance or lifestyle. When we see people who are seeking out a purpose, something more from their lives we must bring them to our Master who can show them his goodness and put their talents to good work just as he has ours.
There is no greater work that we can do other than the work of Jesus. As we continue to live as a remnant people for Christ we must stop being picky and choosy about our hypothetical "co-workers". Everyone deserves a chance to work for the Master. Everyone deserves a chance to read the Bible and understand God's words for themselves. Everyone deserves a chance to fall in love with Jesus.
Maybe the idea of sharing your faith really worries you because you don't feel qualified. There is a cliche little phrase going around that says, "God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called." It is cliche, but also powerful. The truth is, none of us will ever have all the answers. Sometimes that is why people might be willing to hear from us. They feel comfortable because of our humility. They relate to our own struggles and brokenness. When we admit that we don't have all the answers, we are able to shed light on the one thing that does... the Bible. Although we will never fully understand the entire Bible perfectly, I believe God still calls us to share what we do know. This could be as simple as telling the story of Jesus or as complex as discussing Bible prophecies. Wherever you are in your faith journey, share that with someone.
Who have you shared Jesus with today? Who can you share him with tomorrow?
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”