Self Righteousness, Envy and Generosity (Bible study Matthew 20)

In Matthew 20 Jesus tells another parable.  It is the story of the landowner and the workers that he hires at different times during the day.  In the parable the landowner goes and hires men first thing in the morning and tells them he will pay them the daily wage.  They agree and get to work.  Then at 9 AM, 3 PM and 5 PM he goes out and finds others promising them a just wage for their work if they start right away.  They all go.  At the end of the day he pays them all. He starts with those hired at 5 and pays them a full day’s wage.  Then he does the same with those he hired at 3 and at 9.  Finally when it comes to those he hired first, they think that he will pay them more.  But he doesn’t.  They complain about the “injustice” because they got paid the same as those who started only a short while ago.  The landowner says that it is not unfair.  He paid them what they agreed to.  He says who are they to challenge what he does with his own money and asks if they are envious of his generosity.

Now people can read this a lot of ways.  It’s actually a really tough parable.  I think first when we read scripture it’s important to think about what it meant to that group of people at that time.  Jesus was in the middle of many confrontations with the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  The heat is getting turned up as we are approaching the time when they would look to kill Jesus.  One of the things that they are most mad about is that all sorts of “sinners” seem to be allowed into this kingdom that Jesus keeps talking about and they seem to be on the outside and they don’t like it.  After all, they’ve followed all the rules.  They’ve been in this since the beginning.  They should be first, not last.

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How Much Of A Sinner Are You? (Luke 7:36-50)

Luke 7:36-50 tells an interesting story that I think is often misinterpreted or glossed over.  Jesus is at the home of a pharisee who has requested dinner with Jesus.  Let’s push pause right here before we go further.

One of the mistakes we make reading the gospels is that we often turn the Pharisees into one monolithic group.  They were not.  They were actual people.  And Jesus loved them too.  Yes they got a lot wrong. Yes many of them did not like Jesus.  But Jesus didn’t hate them.  He loved them.  He kept loving them all the way through the end.  Even when He was challenging them He was doing it to try to get them to see the truth.  He asks them once – who will save you from hell?!  Jesus was trying to get them to get it.  Just like everyone else.  And some of them were interested.  Obviously this Pharisee was curious.

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The Other Parable of Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32)

In todays look at the scriptures I’d like to look at what I like to call The Other Parable of Two Sons.  When most people think of a parable with two sons they immediately think of the familiar parable of the prodigal son.  That is indeed a great parable and perhaps we’ll dive in another day.  Today I want to look in stead at the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21.

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You Aren’t Entitled To A Spouse

Recently, while talking about my wedding, a good friend remarked something to the effect of, “It’s a great story.  You’re 40 and you’ve never settled.  And now God has been faithful.”  I kind of just smiled at this.

I get this sort of thing all the time.  This idea that because I’ve “hung in there” or “not settled” that God is finally rewarding me.  Or that from day one God has had this as His plan – that plan apparently being have me wait until 40 to get married.

While I appreciate the sentiment, I’m not sure I buy that exactly.

Here is what I do buy.  God for sure brought me and my soon to be bride together.  I believe that wholeheartedly.  It’s a good fit on so many levels it’s not even really questionable.  Another friend said to me recently about the way our lives fit together, “If you ever tell me there’s no God, I’m gonna hit you in the face!  Because there is no way!  It’s so right!”  He’s right!

But, I would say, it is in spite of my sin, brokenness, and failures that God has done this.  It’s His grace that has brought us together, not my “faithfulness.”

It’s not that I’ve been completely unfaithful or that I’ve thought about “settling” if “settling” means marrying someone who I shouldn’t.  But this idea that somehow I’ve earned God’s favor and He has finally rewarded me just doesn’t wash.

One of the big problems in our culture is this idea of entitlement.  The idea that I’m owed something.  You see it in the sports, business, and yes even in ministry.  But no where does it rear its head in Christian culture more than in the discussion of singleness and marriage.  And it’s a problem.

God does not owe us a spouse.

Entitlement comes from a couple of places.  One is self-righteousness.  We see this in the person who has “saved themselves for marriage” and therefore can’t understand why they are not married.  It’s the idea that if I’m moral enough then God should deliver.  Usually we fall into this by accident – at least I did.  At first I was doing right because of God, but then it kind of turned.  I was being “good” so why wasn’t He holding up His end of the bargain.  But we aren’t moral to get something from God.  We are moral out of gratitude to God, and because we are following Him and He leads us to Godly Righteousness.  We live a Chaste life for Him, not to earn something.

Entitlement also comes from arrogance.  This is where the whole “don’t settle” thing comes into play.  Now I’m not saying marry or date anyone that comes along.  By no means!  But there is the idea that because I’ve passed on so many people that now God has brought me “The One“.  Ummmm.  Yeah, I’m not real comfortable with that.  I think sometimes I chose not to pursue and it was wise, other times it was stupid.  Sometimes it was out of fear or rationalization.  The point is, I can always find something wrong and not commit.  It’s a fine line.  But the biggest issue is that it assumes that no one would have to settle to be with me.  Hahaha.  I mean I’m pretty screwed up.

The thing about all of this entitlement is that it creates bitterness, frustration and resentment in our own hearts.

We end up resenting God.  He becomes the Great Withholder.  He isn’t giving us what we want, or what we feel we’ve earned.  He isn’t coming through.  He’s not bringing me anyone or at least not the perfect one.  It’s all His fault that I’m not married.  Has nothing to do with me or anybody else.  It’s your fault God.

We end up resenting the opposite sex.  This drives me crazy but I used to be there.  Man I spent some time resenting women, or at least certain ones.  They should like me.  They always pick the guy who isn’t really as “Christian” as me.  Man, I want to throw up writing that.  And the female version where there are no mature guys.  There just aren’t any guys who love Jesus and have a job etc.  Really!?  Again, it couldn’t possibly be me.  All of this is bad for us (it also makes us way less attractive).

Finally we can end up resenting our friends that get married.  “I hope they make it” – read – because they sure aren’t as spiritual as me.  They lived a crazy life and now they get “what they want” and I don’t.  How is that fair?

We have to flush this stuff out.  We are not entitled to a spouse.  No one has to choose us. God does not owe us.  But more importantly, it’s not about that anyway.  We can’t let it become our identity.

Do you feel entitled to a spouse?  Who do resent?  What helps you fight those two things?