Great Plains Daily Devotional for 9/19/2023: Matthew 20:1-6

Today please be in prayer for

Kansas City: Wesley UMC
Kansas City District
Kansas City: Wyandotte UMC
Kansas City District
Lansing: Crossroads UMC
Leavenworth: Trinity UMC
Kansas City District
Leavenworth: First UMC
Kansas City District

Today's Lectionary Text

Matthew 20:1-16 

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Today's Devotional

“His piece is bigger than mine!,” Javier states. 

“No, it’s not,” Mercedes retorts. 

Javier screeches back, “It's not fair!” 

Matthew’s Gospel presents a similar situation. A group of laborers is hired at the start of the day. They agree to receive “the usual daily wage.” Four more times throughout the day more laborers are hired, including a group that works only one hour. At the end of the day, they are all paid the same amount. For years I have screamed at this parable, “That’s not fair!” 

Who decides what is fair? In Matthew the first group wanted to be the arbiters of fairness. In that way they would get to benefit the most; they could get more than they had planned.  

However, the focus of this teaching story is really on the landowner. This gift-giver is so generous. The amount given to the last group is way more than what they earned. It included a gift. In a similar way God is so extravagantly generous. Yet, it still does not seem fair! We could repeat this litany throughout the entire day. It would not change that some things do not seem fair and that God wants to be generous. Fair or just, to God means everyone has enough to live. All of the workers did receive enough that day to live. God’s deepest desire is to express God’s love to every person by providing for each one’s needs. 

We cannot change the story to make everything come out even or be fair. Instead, we can focus on the generosity it conveys, allowing ourselves to be led to act in ways that reflect God’s caring compassion. Grocery prices keep rising; donations to the United Methodist Open Door Food Ministry or to the local community food ministry would make it easier for those who find food prices prohibitive to obtain adequate nutrition.  

A man spends nights sleeping on the park bench. The weather will soon be cool enough that such accommodations will not only be uncomfortable, but dangerous. A blanket that has been stored on the top closet shelf for three or four years could provide warmth and comfort. Maybe leaving it on the bench with a kind note would offer a glimpse of God’s presence and care to the homeless one sleeping there. 

Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and war overwhelm our world today. Large numbers of folk are left in grief and pain, deep sadness and fear. A donation to UMCOR would help address the needs that accompany disasters throughout the world. 

God’s deepest desire is that each person knows he or she is important as their needs are met. God’s gentle and generous call is to us, to be among those who help meet such needs. Let’s answer the call by acting as God acts, in caring and generous ways. 

-- Dianne Tombaugh
Retired elder

Prayer for Reflection

Generous God. Thank you for your good gifts. Help us to give thanks by passing your life-sustaining gifts on to those in need. Use us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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