by Ronald H. Matthews

Give Me a Break!
Rev. Ronald H. Matthews
Matthew 20:1-16

Sometimes when reading the Bible, you feel worse, not better. In the pages of the scriptures you will find every conceivable example of human depravity and stories so strange, so against the grain of our cherished suppositions that the Bible seems to confuse rather than resolve problems. Today's story of the laborers in the vineyard is an example. What kind of justice is this? This is certainly no way to run a business!

If you read the Bible and consider just how complex it is, you soon begin to realize that in the Bible we come face to face with another way of being in the world; an alternate lifestyle. Our customs and assumptions don't always work here. In the Bible, we quickly discover new standards regarding personal relationships in such areas as forgiveness, mercy, and justice.

This is another story in Matthew--that Jewish-Christian gospel! Others gospels may be stuck on love and gracious acceptance of God, but not Matthew. As far as Matthew is concerned, Jesus Christ brings us salvation, but that doesn't change one thing about the rules. The rules still apply. Thus Matthew is filled with stern demands, and lists of injunctions, and the gavel of justice coming down in the great court of the almighty. Other gospels have stories about good little bad boys who came home after weeks of carousing and wasting their inheritance; only to find their old man welcoming them and throwing a banquet in honor of their return.

Not Matthew! He tells stories of foolish virgins standing in the darkness, their lamps not filled, clawing at the door. (Young preacher who prayed that when the Lord returned, he would not be found sleeping with the five foolish virgins!) These folks had their chance; the door is now shut. Too bad for them, but goody, goody for us! (I have met such people!) In Matthew's gospel there are lots of moralistic lessons like the poor servant who gypped his fellow servants out of ...

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