#9 ~ The Workers of the Kingdom
Have you ever had a job where it did not seem that that the work was divided equally?
Have you noticed in church that some people seem to be doing a lot of work while others do hardly anything at all? How do these situations make you feel?
Note: Everybody took the bait on these opening questions. Everyone in the class had some story about some slacker at work that got away with something that they felt was wrong, or they told about how they were working harder than others, having to do the job of someone else, etc. It was the perfect setup.
Matthew 19:16-22 ~ The Rich Young Ruler. Where else have we heard Jesus use this phrase to sell everything you have? See Matthew 13:44-45. Where else has Jesus used the phrase “treasure in heaven”? See Matthew 6:19-21. What is the point that Jesus was making to this man?
Matthew 19:23-30 ~ What are we going to get? After seeing how the rich young ruler left without following Jesus, this prompts Peter to ask the question. The twelve disciples had left everything to follow this Man. Jesus states that the twelve disciples have very special positions in the Kingdom of Heaven, and this is corroborated by Luke 22:28-30. Jesus states that anyone who has left behind anything for His name will receive 100 times that plus eternal life. Then Jesus has a “but” statement. But many who are first will be last and the last will be first. The disciples were the first. No one could be earlier than them in following the Messiah as the gospel of the kingdom began to be preached, see Luke 16:16. Based on this passage, do you think the twelve disciples will have a special place above everyone else in the Kingdom of Heaven?
Matthew 20:1-16 ~ The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. Do you think it’s fair that no matter how hard or long you work, that everyone gets the exact same payment? Can you relate to those who are grumbling about having done more work than the others? What were the terms under which you entered the Kingdom of Heaven? What did God originally promise to you when you repented of your sins? Why do you think we get jealous when we see someone else get more than we think they deserve? On judgment day, what do you think it will be like to be one of the twelve disciples and be required to wait until everyone else gets their reward first before getting your reward?
Matthew 18:1-4, 19:13-15 ~ Become like little children. When we humble ourselves and repent, should we make a deal with God about which position we want in the Kingdom of Heaven? Arguing about position is contrary to the Kingdom of Heaven itself. When Peter says, “What will we get?”, Jesus affirms that they will have special places, but quickly reproves the notion that some will have more than others. Jesus tells this parable to show that everyone is getting paid the same. There are other passages that speak of rewards and crowns, but here in this passage, Jesus is correcting those who want to place themselves above others and forget that God can be generous to whom He wants to be generous. Wanting position in the Kingdom of Heaven is trying to control the generosity of God.
Matthew 20:17-19 ~ Jesus as the Lowest Servant. Jesus predicts His death as He has before, see Matthew 16:21-23.
Matthew 20:20-23 ~ The Request of the Sons of Thunder. Why this request now? Could it be that the disciples only heard the part about sitting on twelve thrones and forgot about the part where everyone is getting paid the same? We should commend them for acting on faith that this Kingdom of Heaven is real. Why do you think this request was made? What does the response of Jesus show about the Kingdom of Heaven?
Matthew 20:24-28 ~ Greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven. How does Jesus explain greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven? Should a worker for the Kingdom of Heaven grumble or complain? Do you complain about things in our church when you think it’s not fair? Did Jesus complain as He was laying down His life? Since Jesus was the Lowest Servant, He gets to be the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is contradictory to lay your life down as a servant for the Kingdom counting it as nothing and to brag about yourself at the same time. If you are concerned about your position in the Kingdom of Heaven, your mind is not focused on the Kingdom of Heaven at all. Our focus should be on the work to be done in the here and now. We should be making ourselves servants of everyone around us. Once we place ourselves lower than those around us, making ourselves their servants, then we are fit for the Kingdom of Heaven. We will have no problem with everyone getting paid the same once we understand that we are God’s servants and He sets the terms of work, rewards, and positions. He decides it all.
Terminology. Let’s look at the terms used in this passage which seem to be equitable. Matthew 19:14, “To such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 19:16, ”Have eternal life.” Matthew 19:17, “Enter life.” Matthew 19:21, “Have treasure in heaven.” Matthew 19:23, “Enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 19:25, “Enter the Kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:25, “Be saved.” Matthew 19:28, “In the new world” or “In the regeneration.” Matthew 19:29, “Inherit eternal life.” What terms are not here that we use frequently? Note: I was looking for answers like “get saved”, “ask Jesus into your heart”, “become a Christian”
John 3:1-21 Terminology. Now let’s look at the terms used interchangeably in this passage. John 3:3, “Be born again” and “See the Kingdom of God.” John 3:5, “Born of the Spirit” and “Enter the Kingdom of God.” John 3:15, “Have eternal life.” John 3:16, “Have everlasting life.” John 3:17, “Be saved.” John 3:18, “Not condemned.” Why do you think we shy away from using the term “enter the Kingdom of Heaven” in our Christian talk?
The Kingdom work in the here and now. This parable and others suggest that we work for the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now, yet our rewards are future. There is a future aspect to this Kingdom of Heaven while the work is being done by faith without being able to see it. The present aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven shows that we have the power to work for Christ. Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20 show that Christ and those who followed Christ cast out demons by the power of the Kingdom of God. As the devil is held in check, being bound by Jesus Christ as we minister, we do the work of the Kingdom of God. The church should be the place where we serve each other in love, counting everyone else as being more important than we are. It should not bother us to place others as being more important than ourselves. If God decides to be generous to everyone around us, we should only rejoice for them, not be jealous for our own sakes.
The Kingdom of Heaven is backward to the kingdoms of this world. It is a foreign concept to us. No matter how hard or for how long you work, everyone gets paid the same. There are no grudges or unforgiveness in the Kingdom of Heaven either. Everyone is treated equally, and nobody begrudges anybody about anything. We all exist peacefully with no jealousy. We all serve and never ask the question, “What am I going to get?”
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
P.S. My friend suggested that I teach a series of lessons on the parables of Jesus as they related to the Kingdom of Heaven. He felt they could be used to help strengthen our church for evangelism. I knew there would be no curriculum that would teach these lessons the way I felt they should be taught. So I asked God to give me the lessons He wanted me to teach.
I sat at my kitchen table for 2-3 hours one morning. These lessons came very slowly. I would pray and ask God, “What is the first lesson?” After about 15 minutes, I would have the scripture passages that I believed God wanted me to teach. Then I would spend 15-20 more minutes of praying and asking for God’s direction about the next lesson. When I was done, I had 16 lessons from God’s word.
When I got to this lesson, I couldn’t believe it. I said, “God, am I really going to teach this?” God’s response was, “It’s right here in the word of God.” I still paused. I said again, “God, am I really going to teach this lesson to the class?” God said, “Yes, it’s right there in my word.”
To teach people that no matter how hard you work for the Kingdom of Heaven that you will get paid (rewarded) the exact same as those that do very little seemed to be a very non-motivational lesson. I hope you understand why a true servant is not focused on the reward comparison at all.