Joke of the Week
Stevie Wonder and Tiger Woods meet at a fund raiser. Woods turns to Wonder and says: “How is the singing career going?” Stevie Wonder replies: “Not too bad! How’s the golf?” Woods replies: “Not too bad, I’ve had some problems with my swing, but I think I’ve got that right now.” Stevie Wonder says: “I always find that when my swing goes wrong, I need to stop playing for a while and not think about it. Then, the next time I play, it seems to be all right. Tiger Woods says: “You play golf?” Stevie Wonder says: “Oh, yes, I’ve been playing for years.” Woods says: “But, you’re blind. How can you play golf if you’re blind?” Wonder replies: “I get my caddy to stand in the middle of the fairway and call to me. I listen for the sound of his voice and play the ball towards him. Then, when I get to where the ball lands, the caddy moves to the green or farther down the fairway and again I play the ball towards his voice.” “But, how do you putt?” asks Woods. “Well,” says Stevie, “I get my caddy to lean down in front of the hole and call to me with his head on the ground and I just play the ball towards his voice.” Woods asks: “What’s your handicap?” Stevie says, “Well, I’m a scratch golfer.” Woods, incredulous, says to Stevie: “We’ve got to play a round sometime.” Wonder replies: “Well, people don’t take me seriously, so I only play for money, and never play for less than $10,000 a hole.” Woods thinks about it and says, “OK, I’m game for that, when would you like to play?” Stevie says, “Pick a night.
George Washington establishes Thanksgiving Day.
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Parables of the Kingdom: The Laborers in the Vineyard: Matt. 20:1-16
- Who does the master of the house represent?
- What does the vineyard represent?
- Who do the laborers represent?
- Some of the laborers worked all day, others only part of the day. What does that tell us about the children of the kingdom?
- What does the denarius that the master gave to each laborer represent?
- Why did the laborers who had worked all day object to the master’s principle of remuneration?
- Why did the master pay all the laborers the same?
- What is the point of the parable?
Exposition of the Parable
The master of the house is God, or Christ. The vineyard is the world. The laborers are the children of the kingdom. We can be sure of these things because God, the world, and the children of the kingdom of heaven show up in so many of these kingdom parables. In this parable nothing or no one represents the wicked found in the kingdom of heaven; they are present in only the Parable of the Weeds and the Parable of the Net, and have no part in the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, or the Parable of the Pearl of Great Value.
The laborers each agree to the master’s terms and go to work in the vineyard. No doubt most who heard the parable were as surprised as the laborers when the master of the house gave them all the same pay at the end of the day. The natural, human thing is to assume that that those who work more will receive more at the end of the day. To be sure, as the master reminds them, they all received exactly what they agreed on, but they questioned whether that is fair. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we too struggle with the fairness issue in this parable.
The spiritual truth exhibited by equal pay for all is that everyone who comes to Christ for salvation receives the same reward, the reward promised in the gospel. That reward is eternal life.
This is a lesson we need to learn, for most of us naturally feel that those who serve God faithfully all life-long ought to receive a greater reward than those who are converted on their deathbed after a wicked or unconcerned life. But God is a God of grace. He gives us what we need, not what our works deserve. He gives what he promised without regard for our works.
It would be easy to read into this parable something that’s not there. That would be the idea that we earn our salvation by our good works. All the laborers worked in the vineyard for some period of time; the master did not hand out money to those who never set foot in the vineyard. One could come away with the mistaken idea that, as for those who do not have enough good works, well, God in his grace accepts them anyway and makes up the difference, so to speak.
That is not the point of the parable; that is not the way of salvation. God doesn’t “make up the difference” between what we can do and what he requires of us. He demands perfect righteousness, and we sinners have no righteousness at all that we can contribute:
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. Isaiah 64:6
God provides all our righteousness, the infinite righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Simply going into the vineyard to work assures the laborer of a denarius. We can identify going into the vineyard as believing in Christ—that is made clear in the next parable, the Parable of the Two Sons. Believing in Christ brings the same promised reward, eternal life, to all.
Jesus ended the parable with the words, “So the last will be first and the first last.” That is actually the main point of the Parable of Laborers in the Vineyard. Those words would take on more significance in years to come as Gentiles responded to the gospel and entered the kingdom of heaven, Christ’s Church. Jews in general, including Jewish Christians, thought their faithfulness over the centuries entitled them to a more exalted place in the kingdom than the place occupied by Gentile converts, whose ancestors had worshiped idols for time out of mind while the Jews worshiped Yahweh.
Within a few days the Lord would tell the Parable of the Two Sons, the Parable of the Tenants, and the Parable of the Wedding Feast. These parables deal with the stubborn unbelief of the Jews and the faith of the Gentiles. Gentile Christians, who began to come to faith after the Resurrection, were last in time, but they became first; the Jews, who had worshiped the one true God for so long, by their unbelief became last. “So the last will be first and the first last.”
Unlike most parables, this parable has two main points, or perhaps only one with a special application:
- God is gracious. To those who respond to his offer, he gives a place in his eternal kingdom that does not depend on how much he has done for them.
- The last will be first and the first last. Gentiles, so long the last, were to become first; the Jews so long the first, were to become last. The Book of Acts recounts the historical beginning of this great change. Perhaps we should consider this point a special application of the first point: God has been especially gracious to the Gentiles, bringing them into the kingdom after so many millennia of bowing down to false gods instead of their true Creator.