“Our Generous God” (Isaiah 55:8-9; Matthew 20:1-16)

“Our Generous God”

Isaiah 55:8-9; Matthew 20:9-16

Pentecost 16 – September 23/24, 2017


What does it mean to be “generous?” The dictionary says: a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected.

  1. How much is a generous helping of mashed potatoes?
  2. How much money is a generous donation to a charity?
  3. What does it mean for a person to be generous with both his time and his money?
  4. What is a generous tip at a restaurant – 18%, 20%, higher? No matter what our definition, it is nothing compared to “Our Generous God!” In our first Scripture reading we read: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9) The more we learn from God and His Word, the more we must say a definite “Amen!” to this truth from God. And again this weekend, we can rejoice greatly that God’s generous ways are NOT our ways (and cannot be compared to what we might consider “generous”), as Jesus teaches us in this shocking parable that we call “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.”

Jesus always told parables to teach His disciples (and us) a truth that is “out of this world;” a truth that is “higher than our ways.” And today’s parable is no exception!

Jesus tells us: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning (6:00 a.m.) to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day (12 hours) and sent them into his vineyard.” To help us understand what Jesus is teaching, instead of a “denarius,” we understand it better as a good day’s wage – just to make it easy let’s say, $10 per hour; so the work day was 12 hours / $120 for a day’s work.

Jesus continues: “About 9:00 a.m. 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 3:00 p.m. and did the same thing. About the 5:00 p.m., 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.’” (Matthew 20:1-7)

Can you imagine the talk that went on as each “new group of workers” joined the others? I imagine they did some “checking amongst themselves.” Those hired at 9:00 a.m. probably asked those who had started at 6:00 a.m. – “Say, what’s the boss paying you? He told us that he’d pay us what is right.” When they found out $120, they easily calculated that they’d be paid $90 – great! Also those hired at noon, probably figured they’d be getting $60; those starting at 3:00 p.m. – $30; and the last at 5:00 p.m. would be happy with $10! In this world, we expect “fair labor practices” / to “receive equal pay for equal work.”

Jesus says: “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 the 11th hour came and each received a denarius ($120!). So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more.” If you had worked all 12 hours, would you have expected it?

Jesus says: “So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius (generous pay for a day’s work!). When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men 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, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man 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?’” And then Jesus states God’s “gracious Way” that goes against our grumbling “way:” “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

But it isn’t fair! We protest! We are so caught up in the earthly, “American way” of “work harder = get ahead of your neighbor.” We are constantly comparing ourselves with others; doing our mental bookkeeping deciding what we think we should be getting and grumbling when others seem to be getting more than we. (This is a form of coveting, the opposite of being content, the 9th & 10th commandments; a reminder of our great sinfulness against God!)

Now, Jesus did NOT tell this parable as instructions on “how to do business in this world.” We know that a “landowner” (in this world) wouldn’t be able to afford this kind of generosity on a regular basis – he’d never make a profit! But note that Jesus says: “For the kingdom of heaven is like…” Take special note that Jesus IS telling us a parable about “the owner” who can afford this kind of generosity and regularly gives it!

The Pharisees in Jesus’ day had “standards” for entry into the Kingdom of heaven. Once they brought in a woman “caught in adultery;” certainly NOT a candidate for God’s kingdom. But Jesus (teaching them that their “way” was NOT God’s way) said, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) After all had left (they were honest enough to know their guilt), Jesus graciously said to the woman, “neither do I condemn you… Go now and leave your life of sin.” (v.11) The Pharisees would NOT see Matthew a tax collector, or Zacchaeus, as fit for the Kingdom of heaven; and yet Jesus graciously included them! When Jesus was dining at the home of Simon, the Pharisee, and “a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town” (Luke 7:37) washed Jesus’ “feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” Those who were there couldn’t believe that Jesus would allow it, and then were utterly amazed when Jesus graciously said to this woman, “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (v.48, 50) And there are many more examples!

We know (in our heads) that we are “saved by grace, through faith, this is not our own doing, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9) and yet, because of our sinful, selfish nature, we still think in terms of “rewards and punishments” / foolishly demanding that we be treated “fairly.” But, grace isn’t fair but it is God’s generous gift given to those who in this world

  • appear to be “last” – the “sinners”, the “losers,” those who on their death-bed (like the repentant thief on the cross) are brought to saving faith; as well as
  • to those who appear to be “first” – the “faithful followers” of Jesus; who find great joy in working in God’s vineyard. “Fair” has to do with the “justice” of the Law – which condemns us all – if we received what we truly deserve… “God’s Generous Grace” has to do with love – forgiveness, renewal – “helpful, healing” of the Gospel which leads to a desire to serve and love in return. God bless you with His generous gifts of Word and Sacraments today and every day. I look forward to being with you this next weekend for more of God’s gracious blessings given through our worship and Bible studies.
  • Pastor Myers

Sermon Audio


“Forgiveness in the Family of Christ” (Genesis 50:19-20; Matthew 18:21-22)

“Forgiveness in the Family of Christ”

Genesis 50:19-20; Matthew 18:21-22

September 16 & 17, 2017

What is the balance in your bank account? I don’t need to know, but you do – especially if you want to buy something or pay your bills. If we spend more than we have in the account, we are “over-drawn” and suffer a penalty – and none of us want or can afford that!

But what if we had a never-ending source of income for our bank account? Wouldn’t that be great? We could be quite generous in spending the unlimited wealth available to us!

Although I’ve asked you about your bank account, God’s Word directs our attention to a much more important “account” – one that we might seldom think about – our “forgiveness account.” What is the balance in your “forgiveness account?”

Both the Old Testament reading and the Gospel reading teach us about forgiveness –the Old Testament reading from the story of Joseph forgiving his brothers; and in the Gospel reading Jesus important teaching.

In Matthew 18, we read, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? [The Jewish rabbis taught you must do it 3 times but not a 4th, so Peter was being very generous and suggested] Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven (or 70 times 7) times.’” (Matthew 18:21-22) And Jesus further drove home His important teaching by telling the parable about the outrageous double standard of the unmerciful servant!

But first, notice that Peter (like we so naturally do) saw himself as the one sinned against! He asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” To begin with Peter had things back-wards. The first question (seldom if ever asked) must be – “How many times have I sinned against God, and God has forgiven me?” [Back to the illustration of the bank account; the starting place whenever we deal with “forgiving others” must always begin with the question, What do I have in my ‘forgiveness account’?] How much forgiveness have I needed and received?

Notice this emphasis in the parable that Jesus told. A servant owed his king “millions of dollars” – an impossible debt to ever pay back! The servant begged for “patience” and he promised the impossible – to pay back everything! The king went FAR BEYOND “patience” – “he took pity on the man, canceled the debt and let him go!” What a HUGE, undeserved “deposit” into this man’s “forgiveness account!”

But the “unthinkable” happened! This man who had been shown ABUNDANT MERCY, went out… found a fellow servant who owed him (a few dollars) and he demanded full payment for this small, insignificant debt! When this fellow servant also pleaded for “patience” (with the very “do-able” promise of paying it all back); wouldn’t we expect the “forgiven servant” to “pass on” a part of the ENORMOUS amount of forgiveness that he had just so graciously received? But instead, the UNTHINKABLE happened – “he had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt!”

This parable of Jesus does NOT have a HAPPY ENDING! Because the “wicked servant” refused to “have mercy” (forgive) his fellow servant, things changed drastically! The king treated him in the same way! The king “turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed!” And then Jesus speaks the undeniable words of Law: “This is how My Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (v.35)   [Note also that Jesus had also taught earlier, “This is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven… Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors… For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:9-15)

Forgiveness is never a LICENSE TO KEEP ON SINNING. When we receive God’s forgiveness it changes us.

What a negative example we have in this unmerciful servant in Jesus’ parable! In contrast, what a positive example we have in today’s Old Testament Scripture reading – the example of Joseph!

When he was just a teenager, his 10 brothers ganged up on him because of jealousy, and sold him into slavery! For 13 years Joseph suffered as a slave and was even imprisoned for something he hadn’t done! When their father, Jacob had died, Joseph’s brothers panicked, afraid of what Joseph might do in revenge for what they had done! Their attitude is a commentary that they certainly did NOT understand God’s gracious gift of forgiveness!

But God’s love and forgiveness HAD filled Joseph’s “forgiveness account.” “Joseph said to (his brothers), ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?’”

This question that Joseph asked, “Am I in the place of God?” helps us to see that by withholding full and free forgiveness from those who sin against us (no matter how terrible the sin might have been); we act as if we are “replacing” God! And when we “replace God,” we then refuse the “great deposit of forgiveness” that He so graciously gives. Using the example of a bank account – when we refuse to forgive anyone, we also refuse all the deposits that God makes to our “forgiveness account.” That’s why Jesus teaches us to pray, first: “forgive us our trespasses” – CHANGE OUR HEARTS TO THE NEW LIFE IN JESUS – make us to realize the great “deposits” to our “forgiveness account” – and only then can we pray – “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Jesus fills our forgiveness account as we regularly read and hear God’s Word, at home and at public worship; as we receive Jesus’ true body and blood “for the forgiveness of our sins” and gives us NEW LIFE in His Kingdom. We live the new life, no longer putting any limit to forgiving self and others, because the forgiveness that flows through us NEVER originates in us; it is in our hearts ONLY because Jesus has deposited it there – a “never ending source” so that (with God’s continued working in us.) Therefore, we WILL generously and gladly forgive as our heavenly Father so fully and freely forgives us.

See you in worship this coming weekend, as Jesus’ continues to fill our forgiveness account and blesses us so that we may be His blessing to our family, neighbors, co-workers, friends and all those around us.


Pastor Myers


Sermon Audio

“Priceless Treasure” (Matthew 13:44-46)

“Priceless Treasure” – Matthew 13:44-46

July 29 & 30, 2017

In Western Texas there is a famous oil field known as “Yates Pool.” During the depression, this land was a barren sheep ranch owned by a man named Yates. He was not able to make enough money to pay on his mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch. With little money for food or clothes, his family, like many others, struggled to live from one day to the next. Then a crew from an oil company came into the area and asked permission to drill a wildcat well on the property. After drilling only 1000 feet, they struck a huge oil reserve – so big, that 30 years later, a test of his field showed that it still could produce 100,000 barrels of oil a day! And to think that it was ALWAYS THERE, but WAS OF NO BENEFIT until it was “FOUND.”

This is a modern-day example of the parables that Jesus told; teaching us important lessons concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus tells us: (Matthew 13:44-46) “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Now, we will just get it straight from the start – DO NOT make these parables into allegories, as if we must pay for the treasure! These are parables about “The Kingdom of Heaven” – God’s Word is VERY CLEAR, and the Greatest News is that Jesus paid the Full Price: “we are saved by grace through faith… not our own doing, it is the gift of God, not by works (or paying for it ourselves) so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Rather, in this parable, Jesus is revealing the GREAT WORTH / the EXCLUSIVENESS of “the treasure” – Jesus wants us to see that the present and eternal benefits are WORTH FAR MORE than everything the world has to offer!

 In Jesus’ parables, notice that the “treasures” were in places where anyone could have “found” them – the “treasure hidden in a field” was apparently found “by accident;” and “the pearl of great value” was found by a merchant searching.

God’s Word tells us in Romans 10, “Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” (v.17) And Jesus, speaking to those who refused “the treasure / the pearl of great value” says: “You search the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life!” (John 5:39-40)

The “pearl of great value” is God’s Word available in the Bible for all people – “the field” that holds the “treasure” are the Bible, and the Sacraments – Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are available and given for ALL people, but too often “passed over” / undiscovered, “remaining hidden” because of unbelief or failing to see their “great value.”

Again, God’s Word tells us, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

In Jesus’ parable, “a man” – “any person” – found the treasure. He probably stumbled upon it while working the field. Sometimes this is how God brings people to saving faith. We have the example in Acts, of the Ethiopian official, returning home after going to Jerusalem. He was reading from the book of Isaiah, but not understanding it, when the Holy Spirit sent Philip to his chariot. Philip pointed to Jesus in the Scriptures and this foreigner, “found” Jesus, the “priceless treasure!” In great joy, he asked and received, Holy Baptism and “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).

Another example from Acts: Although Paul & Silas had been “severely flogged” and locked up in the back-breaking stocks; they spent the night “praying and singing hymns to God”; witnessing to their great joy of “their faith relationship with Jesus, the Treasure.” When the earthquake came, all the chains came loose, the prison doors were opened and the jailer was about to kill himself. Paul stopped the jailor, saying that they were all still there. The jailor recognized that Paul & Silas had something very special (a “priceless treasure”) so he asked, “‘What must I do to be saved?’ And they replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’ … The jailer… was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.” (Acts 16:25-34)

God still works in this way today – especially with church members who may simply be “going through the motions” of worship and church membership; having been raised and confirmed in the church, but lacking the real joy and meaning to life that is a result of having the treasure. Then, one day, in Bible Study or in worship, the “discovery” is made and there is great rejoicing in their “new life” in Christ! NOTE: this is why it is such a serious thing when believers stay away from worship, Bible Study and the Lord’s Supper – for “the treasure / the pearl of great value” cannot be “found” by those who stay away from the places where God has placed them!

Do you have this “treasure,” or is it still “hidden?” Does your life reflect the great joy of being a part of The Kingdom of Heaven? Notice that in BOTH of Jesus’ parables, Jesus says, “in his joy, he went and sold all he had” in order to have “the treasure.”

If we find no joy in being a part of the kingdom of heaven, maybe, that is because we have not “sold all.” Too many Christians mistreat God’s Word and Sacraments as one more item on the religious buffet table / one additional piece of religious information. “Religion” is something to “do” on Sunday morning, (sometimes reluctantly) like washing the car, or mowing the lawn – an activity that is done rather than a totally new and joy-filled life-style to live. Jesus / His Word and Sacraments DON’T FIT in with our old values and ideas. God’s Word tells us, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Jesus tells us plainly that it is an either/or situation – He says, “No one can serve two masters… you cannot serve God and mammon (the things of this world).” (Luke16:13)

Jesus FULLY PAID THE GREATEST PRICE – He lived, died and rose again in perfect obedience to His Father’s will, so that OUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN and so that we might have life – not just the temporary, unfulfilled life in this world, but “abundant life” (John 10:10) / “eternal life” beginning right now!

Yes, MUCH better than finding hidden treasures of this world – Jesus, the Priceless Treasure gives:

  • Un-shakable joy in knowing He has made us a part of His kingdom;
  • Daily eagerness to worship, sing His praises, study His Word, receive His Sacraments;
  • and the precious privilege of serving Jesus in His Kingdom: wherever God places us; using our time, our abilities and our financial resources.

In the name of Jesus, the priceless treasure; may you be blessed each and every day this week, and blessed as we gather again this weekend to receive more of Jesus, the Priceless Treasure.

Pastor Myers

Sermon  Audio