The Kingdom of Heaven

by Sylvia Bambola December 16, 2013 15:45 PM

Here’s an interesting parable. Matthew 20:1-16 compares the Kingdom of Heaven to an owner of an estate who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. He promised them each a denarius (a penny) which was the standard day’s wage at the time. He continued hiring laborers throughout the day promising to pay them “whatever is right.” He does this at the third, sixth and ninth hour. Even as late as the eleventh hour he’s still hiring. The eleventh hour translates to five o’clock, which is really at or close to the end of the work day. In fact, the Bible tells us these people worked no more than an hour. But here’s the strange part. When it came time to pay the workers the owner paid them all one denarius each, even those who started working at five o’clock! As you can imagine, this didn’t sit well with those who started work at the crack of dawn, and they voiced their complaints. We’ve been working all day in the hot sun, they whined, and this is what we get? Surely we deserve more! The King James says they complained because the owner had made these late comers “equal” to them.

And how does the owner answer? “Friend, I am doing you no injustice. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? I choose to give to this man hired last the same as I give to you . . . Am I not permitted to do what I choose with what is mine?” 

At first glance this seems unfair. After all, why should someone who has worked hard all day be paid the same as someone who has barely worked an hour? But we’re talking about the Kingdom of Heaven here not a worldly kingdom, and the rules for the heavenly kingdom rarely match those found in this earthly realm.

So what to make of it? First we must consider the times of day mention in this parable. The third, the sixth and the ninth hour are all significant. It was the third hour when, according to Mark 15:25 “they crucified” Jesus. Mark goes on to tell us in verse 33 that “when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” And it was at the ninth hour that “Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.” So we see that the entire scenario in this parable of the estate owner is a reminder that it’s only because of what happened during the hours of Jesus’ crucifixion that God, the owner of the heavenly estate, is able to call us into His vineyard at all. Had the crucifixion not taken place we would forever be relegated to the outside of the vineyard, never able to come in.

But what of the eleventh hour? The time the last batch of workers began their job? That’s five o’clock. As I’ve stated before, numbers have meanings, and here the number five is the number for grace. That alone speaks volumes. Grace equalizes everything. It is only by grace that we can enter God’s vineyard. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9” And it is only by God’s grace that we can labor for God at all. So grace is the message here. We enter God’s vineyard, His Kingdom, by grace and we labor in it by grace.

But something else struck me, too. It is the fact that those who came last into the vineyard were equal to those who came first. This is good news for all us sinners, especially those who are closer to the end of their lives rather than the beginning. It tells us that no matter how late in life we come to the Lord we are still valued, and in fact, equal, to those who have labored all their lives for Him. In other words a poor homeless drunk who comes to the Lord on his/her deathbed is just as valued by God as someone like Billy Graham. Now that’s remarkable! Keep in mind I’m not talking about crowns here. Yes, each of us will get different “crowns” based on what we’ve done in our life but equality as a child of God though acceptance of Jesus, that we all have.

Once again we see the heart of God, His goodness, His desire to bring us all into His “vineyard,” and the esteem in which He holds each of us. Amazing isn’t it!

Until next time,

Sylvia

Category: Spirituality

Law versus Grace

by Sylvia Bambola July 30, 2012 12:50 PM

I’m so glad we’re no longer under the Law, and I don’t mean just the Ten Commandments, which is certainly part of the Law, but rather the 613 commandments which comprise the entire Law of Moses and which, the Bible tells us, if we break just one we are guilty of breaking all (James 2:10). Make no mistake, the Law is holy and reflects God’s standards which no man can ever attain. Indeed, that is the very purpose of the Law—to show us how far short we all fall, to expose our sin nature. For next to God’s standards we are clearly able to see our deficits as Romans 3:20b tells us, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

But praise God for Jesus, who fulfilled the Law with the shedding of His blood, and instituted the dispensation of grace enabling Romans 6:14 to tell us, we are no longer under the law but under grace.

But what does that mean, really? Well, it means we no longer have to try and try and try to do the impossible and live up to a standard so high no one can do it. Instead, we let God do it for us by allowing His indwelling Holy Spirit to change us from within, to empower us to live the life He requires us to live, the life He has planned for us to live.

Sometimes Christians try to revive the Law by saying, “you can’t do this and you can’t do that.” That’s all wrong. What they should be saying is “fall in love with Jesus and let His spirit dwell within you and you won’t WANT to do the things you used to do, those things that displease God. Not only that, you’ll have the strength and power to stop doing them.

Now who in their right mind would ever want to return to the Law?

Until next time,

Sylvia

Category: Spirituality

Amazing Grace

by Sylvia Bambola March 7, 2011 10:03 AM

Even after years of hearing the Gospel which tells us that salvation is a free gift from God, (Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” KJV) it’s still easy for Christians to fall into the temptation of co-mingling grace with works. Why is that?  I think because it’s difficult to completely weed out worldly thinking with regard to spiritual things.

 

The world system says we must prove our worth.  Thus we are judged by who we know, how well we perform, what we do, and how successful we are. But the trouble occurs when we transfer this same standard of measurement to our spiritual life by trying to prove our worth to God.

 

The truth is we are valuable to God not because of anything we’ve done, but because He has bought us with a great price—the very blood of Jesus.  And nothing we ever do, no matter how great, will make us more valuable to God, or more loved by Him. The world will never understand this truth, because it is alien, heavenly, and spiritually discerned.

 

So does that mean we just sit around and eat chocolate covered raisins all day? No, we do good works to please God, because we love Him, and they are the works He has ordained for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). And we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). And His love for us can’t be earned and it’s certainly not deserved.  On the cross, Jesus said “it is finished”. He paid the price so that we could have peace with God. We don’t need to prove anything to Him. All we need do is rest in what Jesus has already done. It’s that simple.

 

Oh, how amazing His grace is!

 

Until next week,

Sylvia

Category: Spirituality