Today: [Matthew 20] Do You Know What Your Calling Is? In chapter 20 of Matthew Jesus again returns to teaching parables to His disciples. In so doing He confronts them once again with the inappropriateness of their bickering about who will be the greatest among them. While this contention rages among them constantly, Jesus speaks of His impending death, and the need for them to refuse to be idle in the work of His kingdom, and to always choose to serve one another rather than contending for some imagined honor of being the disciple with the greatest authority and privilege.
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[Mat 20:1-34 KJV] 1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man [that is] an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. 2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, [that] shall ye receive. 8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them [their] hire, beginning from the last unto the first. 9 And when they came that [were hired] about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And when they had received [it], they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12 Saying, These last have wrought [but] one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. 13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take [that] thine [is], and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
In verse 1 Jesus continues in Judea his practice of teaching by parables as He has in early chapters when He was in Galilee. He presents a parable where a household hires several workers, at different times during the day, yet pays those working for a far less amount of time the same as those who worked the entire day. It makes sense that Jesus would continue teaching along this line, because at various points along the way, His disciples continue to jockey for position, attempting to gain the place of greatest advantage in what they imagine will be an earthly kingdom set up almost immediately in Jerusalem. He is suggesting to them in His wording that the coming of the kingdom will not be in the manner or timeframe they have presumed it to be, and that they have much more work and sacrifice ahead for themselves than they realize. In verse 4, Jesus in the words of the householder in the parable is saying that whatever the demands of life are in regard to following Him and being His disciples, He will do what is right in terms of reward for faithful service. The thing that we are to be concerned with is the question in v. 6, that we not be found standing idle. Notice that the householder (by extension the Lord), does not punish the workmen for standing idle for most of the day, but insists that they now go into His fields and labor.
What about you? Have you ever found yourself standing idle, because you weren’t sure what to do or what the Father would ask of you in terms of faithful service? One of the most common questions people have concerns their calling.
They aren’t certain what their calling in Christ is, or they have a sense of what it is but aren’t sure how to proceed bringing it about. Remember the words of Peter:
[2Pe 1:10 KJV] 10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
Notice that it is not God’s responsibility to clear up the matter of what your calling is. Peter doesn’t say that God will make your calling and election sure, rather he insists that YOU must make your calling and election sure. This gets over into a discussing about the perfect will of God. Most believers falter of their perceived need to live on the razors edge of a perceived perfect will of God. They insist on the need for this to the point that if there is any uncertainty they are willingly completely crippled, feeling it is better to do NOTHING in God than to do something that may not be His specific, exact, certain and undeniably minute and perfect will. I submit to you in light of the parable of the householder that God is more concerned with you NOT BEING IDLE than He is with you waiting on some thunderbolt of certainty from heaven regarding what you must devote yourself to in terms of your calling.
17 And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, 18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, 19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify [him]: and the third day he shall rise again. 20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping [him], and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but [it shall be given to them] for whom it is prepared of my Father. 24 And when the ten heard [it], they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. 25 But Jesus called them [unto him], and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. 29 And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. 30 And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, [thou] Son of David. 31 And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, [thou] Son of David. 32 And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? 33 They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. 34 So Jesus had compassion [on them], and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.
In verse 17 we see Jesus taking His disciples toward Jerusalem, but first taking them aside to tell them now for the second time that He will be betrayed to death by the chief priests and the scribes. He first reveals this sad news to them after Peter declares Him to be the Christ the son of the Living God in Matthew 16:21. It was then that Peter took Him aside and rebuked Him (can you imagine, Peter rebuking Jesus?). This thought of Jesus dying a felon’s death is totally not what the disciples are anticipating, and it is certain that they think that perhaps Jesus has erred, suffering from the strain and demand of His ministry. Whatever be the case, the 12 give Jesus no response after this second insistence that His death is impending. Instead, once again they bicker over who will sit at His right hand and who will have the greatest authority and privilege in His administration in the soon to be established kingdom in the city of Jerusalem. They just do not see anything beyond the immediate, regardless of Jesus’ repeated attempts to make these things known to them. In spite of their shortsightedness, Jesus goes on to hint in verse 23 that not only will He suffer violence at the hands of sinful men, but that these disciples as well, so preoccupied with gaining advantage over each other, will likewise drink of the cup of martyrdom for their faith in time to come. The disciples are having none of this martyrdom talk, instead breaking out in open strife with one another again, each demanding to be honored as greatest instead of their fellow apostles. Jesus silences them with a command that if they would be greatest, they must choose to be servant of all.
What are your thoughts about this immature bickering among the followers of Christ? Have you ever seen this kind of one-upmanship in Christian culture today? Have you ever felt that you have been passed over, or treated unfairly?
Have you ever found yourself waiting for recognition that never comes? This entire chapter deals with our attitudes toward the reward and acknowledgement that others may receive when we think perhaps we are more deserving. What is God’s attitude toward Christian leaders who choose to work together for the common good, instead leering over each other’s ministries and churches like vultures seeking some advantage by which they can have the largest church or largest ministry and thereby satisfy their unsanctified ambition? Jesus is saying to us in this chapter, to each one of us that there are two things that should occupy our thinking: 1.) refuse to be idle in the work of the Lord but work daily to make our calling and election sure. Employ yourself at something no matter what, making a choice to refuse to be found idle, because not being sure of your calling is no excuse for standing around waiting on some level of certainty that may never come. 2.) It doesn’t matter who sits at the top of the heap where religious accomplishment is concerned. There is no prestige in God’s eyes regarding who has the greatest ministry, or the largest congregation. The Father’s heart and the Father’s reward is for that servant who is preoccupied not with getting over on others, but on having a servants heart which will not go unrewarded in the kingdom of Heaven.
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