Daily Devotion for February 20, 2014
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
The unbelievably beautiful and touching Hosanna from the Soweto Gospel Choir, the famous professional choir from South Africa.
What a Great Morning
Holy God, thank you for giving me another morning! I am lucky to be alive on your beautiful planet, so full of marvelous things and the beautiful plants and animals and all the people you have created in your image. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, now and all day long, until I go to sleep, because I want to live with you every minute of this day.
The time and opportunities I have right now will never return, so help me make the best of it, Lord. And let me remember this one thing: You know what you are doing, whether I can see it or not; so I will try to remember today that you are in charge, that you put me here for a reason and that, by your grace, things will turn out with your triumph and the Kingdom of Heaven, for all those who live by your grace. All praise to you forever,
[Let us close our eyes for a minute and meditate on God being in charge.]
For the Clergy and All Who Minister in Christ’s Name
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, in your divine providence you have appointed various orders in your Church: Give your grace, I humbly pray, to all who are called to any office and ministry for your people; and so fill them with the truth of your doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before you, to the glory of your great Name and for the benefit of the church of all faithful people, now and until the end of days.
Holy God, I pray to be filled with your Holy Spirit for the rest of this day. Let me go forth, walking with your Spirit in my heart, that I may be filled with the joy and energy and praise for your entire creation, thankful in the many gifts you have given me, and showing forth your light in my every word and deed. This I pray in Christ's name,
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Proverbs 16:2 (NASB)
But the Lord weighs the motives.
Matthew 20:1-16 (J.B. Phillips NT/NASB)
The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard
“For the kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer going out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. He agreed with them on a wage of a silver coin a day and sent them to work. About nine o’clock he went and saw some others standing about in the market-place with nothing to do. ‘You go to the vineyard too,” he said to them, ‘and I will pay you a fair wage.’ And off they went.
At about mid-day and again at about three o’clock in the afternoon he went and did the same thing. Then about five o’clock he went out and found some others standing about. ‘Why are you standing about here all day doing nothing?’ he asked them. ‘Because no one has employed us,’ they replied. ‘You go off into the vineyard as well, then,’ he said.
When evening came the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ So those who were engaged at five o’clock came up and each man received a silver coin.
But when the first to be employed came they reckoned they would get more, but they also received a silver coin a man. As they took their money they grumbled at the farmer and said, ‘These last fellows have only put in one hour’s work and you’ve treated them exactly the same as us who have gone through all the hard work and heat of the day!’
But he replied to one of them, ‘My friend, I’m not being unjust to you. Wasn’t our agreement for a silver coin a day? Take your money and go home. It is my wish to give the latecomers as much as I give you. May I not do what I like with what belongs to me? Must you be jealous because I am generous?’
So the last shall be first, and the first last.”
Notes on the Scripture
One denarius (a small silver coin) would buy enough wheat to feed a grown man for ten days. It was considered the fair wage for a day of unskilled labor. Unemployed men would, as they do today, congregate at a known location in the morning to create an informal hiring hall for day laborers.
This wonderful parable teaches us the same truth on many different levels. We see first an abstract concept of salvation. The person who is lucky enough to begin his life in a pious family, worshipping God in early childhood and living his entire life in the faith and fear of God, will be granted the same salvation as a person who comes to Christ late in life with his whole heart. When we lay up our treasure in heaven, we are not paid by the hour. It is the sincerity and enthusiasm of our repentance that counts, not how early in life we come to it.
More topically, there is a message for disciples to remember. They are the first, but that does not mean that they are superior to those who will come later. Pitiful human vanity teaches us to try to turn seniority into superiority. For instance, people who have been living in a place for a long time, especially if they grew up there are “natives”, almost invariably lord it over people who move there as adults. But first in time does not mean first in line, Jesus teaches. Seniority has no place in Christianity (although you'd never know it from the way people actually behave).
The same message applies to the Jews. They have been, at this point, God's chosen people for over a thousand years, the only humans on earth who know and worship the one true God. Soon, they will have to accept the Gentiles; and they will be expected to remember the parable, and not take an attitude that they are first-class Christians and the Gentiles, second-class. The Jews will not be the bosses of the Gentiles (at least in the eyes of God.)
The concept of salvation is comfort to the afflicted and lost. Evangelism, once Christ has departed, will be “join me”, not “follow me”. Our salvation does not puff us up. We seek to share, not to find foot soldiers so that we can be sergeants. The pastor of a megachurch is no more than the newest convert in the eyes of God.
We have time for a quick joke. The pastor of a church, during a service, has a moment of extreme emotion; he falls down on his knees and cries out, “Lord Christ, have mercy on me, for I am the lowest of the low. I am nobody.” As he speaks, the senior warden comes to the front and falls on his face, crying, “Lord Christ, I am a worm. I am nothing. Have mercy on me.”
The cleaning woman is waiting in the vestibule and hears this, and she is also seized by the Spirit. She runs out into the church with her mop in her hand, crying, “Have mercy on me Lord Jesus. I have seen the light. I am nothing; I am the lowest of the low.”
The pastor looks up, leans over to whisper in the senior warden's ear, and says, “Look who's putting on airs!”