Septuagesima (Mt 20:1–16)

Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO


“Whatever is right I will give you.” What was right was the denarius the Lord of the Vineyard and those workers agreed to. Punching in at 6, punching out again at 6, that gets you a full day’s wage—one denarius. No more. No less. That’s what’s good, right, and fair. “After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius,” He kept on hiring. So His hiring pitch: “Whatever is right I will give you.” Again and again and again He said it. Sounds fair.

((2. We want what’s fair.))

We like that. We are the workers after all. In our daily lives we like fairness. Follow the rules. Get a job. Work. Get paid. Do a bad job, get fired. Do a great job, get a bonus. Don’t work, go homeless, go hungry. It’s a dog eat dog world out there. But that’s what’s fair. Actions have consequences.

The early bird catches the worm, and if you’re not hired at the crack of dawn, “whatever is right I will give you.” Less. That’s what that means. If you only work a half day: half pay. If you only work one hour, then one hour’s pay. That’s what’s fair.

That’s all well and good, but the problem is we start thinking that way in how we stand before God. When He’s handing out pay, how do we want to measure the payment. We compare. I’ve done more. Worked harder. I did this, and they didn’t do that. They did that sin, and I didn’t. I may do this, but at least I don’t do that.

We so often only mouth the words: “I justly deserve”—that’s what’s fair—“Your temporal and eternal punishment.” Not that person over there. The people not here. No I, me, me alone. No comparisons. What’s good, right, and fair is no blessings in this life, no eternal salvation. All things are free gift, whether temporal (this life) or eternal (the life to come).

And still we compare the worldly gifts He gives: more there, less here. “It’s not fair!” we might cry. “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” the Lord responds.

((1. The Lord does things His way.))

The Lord does what He wants. He’s the Lord, after all. Can’t quite tell Him what to do with what’s His. He does things not like we do things. “My ways are not your ways,”—what gift! He doesn’t do human “fairness.” His “justice” isn’t human justice. His right-ness isn’t fair, but it is righteous, righteousness! He gives what is good—too good! He gives generously to all: “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.” One hour worked; a full day’s pay! Talk about gift!

This isn’t about fair wages; it’s about salvation. It doesn’t matter when you’re brought into the vineyard, He gives His “wage” by way of free gift. Whether you were brought in as an ancient Israelite or Gentiles, whether you’re baptized as an infant or an adult, whether you’re a life-long Christian or a death-row convert. The salvation is all the same: cross-won, empty-tomb assured.

Christ made the payment. Oh, you could walk off the job. Reject the free gift. Go off in search of human justice or fairness. Have nothing to do with the Lord or His vineyard. That would be a shame. He’d let you do that. He really would. At the end of the world, outside His Vineyard, where He, His Word, and His Gifts are—outside there, there’s His justice, eternal justice, perfect justice: eternal punishment.

But when you walk off, what will the Lord do? He’s good—too good! “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” He’d just use someone to call you back. He’d remind you, “Whatever is righteous, I will give you,” “that He might be the justifier of the one who has trust in Jesus Christ.”

So it is today. Here in the Vineyard, the Lord doles out the goods. That we might go about our daily father-ing, mother-ing, son-ing, daughter-ing, husband-ing, wife-ing, worker-ing, student-ing, farmer-ing, and wherever else the Lord has placed us. That’s the Lord being good—too good!

The Lord gives and does: not human fairness, not human justice. Much better. Too good! He died to settle the score. His blood the price. His coming back to life again is the guarantee. THE LORD GIVES YOU WHAT IS GOOD AND RIGHTEOUS. His righteousness. Washing it over you, like Otto today. Robing you again with it in the Absolution. Preaching it into your ears, mind, heart, and life. Placing it into your mouth with His real body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.

“Whatever is right I will give you.” So He does: THE LORD GIVES YOU WHAT IS GOOD AND RIGHTEOUS. It’s not fair! Thanks be to God for that!


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