By the Rev. George Haynes
For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out
early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard . . . and the
householder replied . . . “Am I not allowed to do as I choose with
what belongs to me?”
–Matthew 20: 1, 15a
“Am I not allowed to do as I choose with what belongs to me?”
If that were anyone other than God speaking, it would be nothing less than sheer impudence! But it is God speaking. Jesus makes that absolutely clear in verse 1, with his very first words, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder…” Jesus wants us to know from the very start that this is not just some nice, little ‘once upon a time’ story.
This is God’s story; this is our story, yours and mine.
This is the real, life-story of the relationship that exists between God and each one of us.
That ‘household’ in the parable is GOD! Those laborers in the parable are you and me!
And in verse 15, we hear God saying, “Am I not allowed to do as I choose with what belong to me?” And all at once, two very interesting questions leap to the stage asking for consideration:
1. What does belong to God? and
2. What does God choose to do with what belongs to God?
As to the first question, “What does belong to God?” the psalmist is right there to give us our first clear insight, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it; the world, and all who dwell in it.” Psalm 24:1. Then listen to David’s prayer as he dedicates the offerings and gifts the people have given: “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine.” I Chronicles 29:11.
Finally, from the Epistle of James: “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father,” James 1:17.
What belongs to God really becomes clear as we listen to those representative passages, doesn’t it? EVERYTHING : “Everything in heaven and in the earth” is God’s.
What does God do with this “everything in heaven and in the earth” that is God’s? First thing out of the box, before the dust of creation even has a chance to settle, God takes some of that dust, fashions you and me in God’s very own image, then breathes into our nostrils the breath of life, and we become ~ each one of us ~ a living being. (Genesis 1 and 2).
One of the very first things God does with this “everything in heaven and in the earth” that is God’s is this: God starts to give it away, to share it, and use it so that others may have life, so that others may be blessed.
Do you know what else God does with this “everything in heaven and in the earth” that is God’s? Listen, again, to the psalmist: The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their meat in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desire or every living thing.” That’s the “second” thing God does with this “everything in heaven and in the earth” that is God’s . God shares it with you … freely gives you everything you need to nourish, to sustain, to make rich and full the life God has given you .
EVERYTHING … and MORE!!!
Just listen to this: “God has provided you with every blessing in abundance, so that you not only have enough of everything you need, but in such measure that there is enough for sharing with other people.” That’s terrific! Absolutely terrific!
Not only enough for your every need, but is such measure that you can actually be God-like, by sharing it with other people; by using it to bless other people; by giving it in such a manner that others may have life. Isn’t that incredible?
Wait! There’s more!
As the crowning touch, God bestows upon you and me the dignity and honor of being the stewards of this “everything in heaven and in the earth” that is God’s . God takes this “everything in heaven and in the earth” that is God’s and places it in your hands and mine as a trust, to administer it, to use it, to care for it, and to manage it in partnership with God and with each other, that God’s good purposes and will may be realized and accomplished.
That is one incredible calling! To be a steward. To be a worker together with God and with one another, bringing God’s will and desires and purposes to fulfillment. There is no greater joy than this! For herein is God’s Name praised and honored and highly exalted.
The Rev. George Haynes wrote this for the Spring 1995 issue of Faith in Action, the publication of Lutheran Laity Movement. At the time he was ELCA program specialist for congregational and synodical stewardship services, Division for Congregational Ministries, in the Southwestern Texas and Gulf Coast synods.
© Copyright 1995, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
This essay first appeared in the Spring 1995 issue of Faith in Action. Articles in Faith in Action may be reproduced for use in ELCA and ELCIC congregations provided each copy carries the note:
© Copyright 1995, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Reprinted with permission.