“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 the usual daily wage, 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 the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 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 the usual daily wage?
20:14-16 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.” [NRSV: Matthew 20:1-16]
One of the pearls of the Lord’s Prayer is that ask God to help us experience the kingdom of heaven on earth. This is best revealed in the body of Christ, the church, the Koinonia Fellowship.
The Greek word Koinonia appears 19 times in most editions of the Greek New Testament. The NASB this word is translated “fellowship” 12 times, “sharing” 3 times, and “participation” and “contribution” 2 times each.
• Acts 2:42: “in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread,”
• Romans 15:26: “Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints”
• 1 Corinthians 1:9: “whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ”
• 1 Corinthians 10:16: “we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The”
• 1 Corinthians 10:16: “we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”
• 2 Corinthians 6:14: “unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
• 2 Corinthians 8:4: “gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the”
• 2 Corinthians 9:13: “of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto”
• 2 Corinthians 13:14: “of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with”
• Galatians 2:9: “and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the”
• Ephesians 3:9: “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from”
• Philippians 1:5: “For your fellowship in the gospel from the first”
• Philippians 2:1: “if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels”
• Philippians 3:10: “resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his”
• Philemon 1:6: “That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by”
• Hebrews 13:16: “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such”
• 1 John 1:3: “ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly”
• 1 John 1:3: “and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and”
• 1 John 1:6: “we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk”
• 1 John 1:7: “the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the”
We have been talking about this fellowship for a couple of months, this unity, this calling of the church that God on us, for the world and us, calls for labor, hard labor. Today is the moment we place the other bookend on the topic and look back to see if we are any closer to revealing the Kingdom of God.
There are times that a few can do a majority of the work. The good ole’ 20-80 rule. Not only in the church but in other institutions, congresses, organizations and associations, a few people typically are the focal point and/or the driving forces, but there are sometimes that every member of the group is needed.
This passage from Matthew is one of those times that Jesus share the parable of the laborers as a description of expectation of our fellowship as the Christian church, the body of Christ, the witness of the Kingdom’s work in the world, the Koinonia Fellowship.
Text Summary: 20:1-13
Building and Experiencing the Kingdom of God on earth:
At about 9 in the morning, the landowner goes looking for those who work in the vineyard. Aren’t you glad to hear that heavenly work starts about 9:00 in the morning? For some of you, that means it’s ok to sleep longer than you do, and for others its time to wake up.
The Fruit of working it the vineyard was a day’s wage; the agreed rate of fruit, reward, payment for the amount of work that is estimated to be accomplished in a day’s time deserves a fair wage.
As the day goes along either the worker’s labor has proven to be not enough, the task given has increased, or both. And more laborers are needed.
If the vineyard’s task is to gather all the harvest, the hourly rate that is agreed to as fair at one time if different at different points in the process of production. If a storm is looming that would destroy the vineyard, the urgency of completing the task increases the value of the time to finish the whole task.
Clarification. The church’s task is to live as a fellowship of people who are living like they are heavenly citizens while also living as earthly citizens for the purpose of witness, invitation, and discipleship of those who are not living as heaven citizens, in preparation of actually living in heaven.
Back to the Vineyard: at Noon, Three, and Five, the need for more workers is at steadily increasing demand as the task of completing the harvest before the Storm destroys the vineyard… the value of those who are coming to work later is as equally as valuable to the owner of the vineyard.
The Twist of Value comes at the end of the day: Remember the parable of the talents? One received 5 talents, another 2 talents, and the third, 1 talent.
The Twist at payment time comes when workers who worked longer expected to be paid extra and/or expected the other workers who worked fewer hours to receive less.
• Who agreed to work for the wage and fruits offered? Every laborer who worked in the vineyard.
• How many laborers were needed to complete the harvest? All off them.
• To whom does the vineyard belong? Not the laborers. It belongs to one who owns the land, the plants, the press, the baskets, the tools, the one who paid the taxes, invested in the whole endeavor who offers the labor in the first place.
• The Vineyard owner.
Lessons learned from the Text:
Salvation part B: I am not the only worker God needs. God is genuinely interested in all persons. God is not needing one group, one period in history, or race, or culture, and not us ALL.
Yes, All injustice toward any person is sinful. No matter the reason, race, or purpose. But, it is NOT a racist statement to say that ALL LIVES MATTER. It is NOT Christ-like to say that one group matters more than all the rest. That is not a political declaration, that is a grace-filled truth of the Gospel.
The Kingdom of heaven is like a vineyard owner who pays all the laborers/workers the same fruit, the same pay, the same reward, the same.
The pay is NOT the value of the labor. The payment is for hard work from everyone to participate and complete the vineyard owner’s work.
If the first, second, or third shift could have completed the task they fourth round laborers were never needed, but the reality is that FAIRNESS is not how the landowner operates.
All the laborers were needed.
The Vineyard Owner is more interested in the harvest being complete than distributing earthly wealth fairly. REPEAT.
The Vineyard Owner is more interested in being generous with all the labors.
The Vineyard Owner needs the workers on every shift and at every stage of the process.
The TWIST comes when those who are not God, saying they know what justice, fairness, and equality is from their earthly perspective.
Simply stated: God is more interested in everyone know the love and grace of Jesus Christ, that every person who knows Christ is give both the CHALLENGE and the OPPORTUNITY to witness, welcome and disciples those who don’t know the GRACE and LOVE of Koinonia Fellowship in Christ and the Kingdom’s agents here on earth.
The focus on fair wages swings the focus from completing God’s purpose over own individual goals. Earthly wealthy, blessing, reward OVER earthly wealth, blessing, and reward.
So finally, we get to today’s text of scripture: Matthew 20:14-16
“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.”
What do we learn about the kingdom of God from this passage? And our part in God’s work?
These questions will help you in this post-modern generation figure out if you are part of Christ’s koinonia fellowship or some other fellowship: Listen carefully…
• To whom does the world belong?
• Do all people MATTER to God?
• Does ONE group of people MATTER more than another?
• In the kingdom of heaven, who makes the rules about fairness, grace, love, blessing, value, and meaning? Is that up to God or is that up to each person?
I started this long series on Koinonia Fellowship in response to the events that have surrounded us from every side concerning RACISM and the events of unfolding in our country and the nations around the world.
For John T Brantley: Sinner, male, husband, father, pastor, neighbor, citizen, and human being. I accepted to be devoted to the heavenly work at age 13, I had been put to work all my life, but accepted for myself to work for the kingdom of God for the following 43 years at the wage, that is the very same wages offered to the thief on the cross and I offer to you today. THE WAGES, the Blessing, the grace, the offer — remains the same.
Christ died for us while we were still sinners so that we could know what the heavenly life was like NOW -AND- for eternity. I cannot complete the work alone, it takes the whole KOINONIA FELLOWSHIP. There we go full circle.
We are committing our lives to Christ for the purpose of our salvation, we are ALSO, included in the labor of bring others to know the same grace and salvation.
I would twist the offer earthly to say, “We’ll I’m saved, you figure it out if you like.” That is not the covenant, contract, agreement… There is the part B.
This passage is clear: The sooner we gather all harvest, all God’s harvest, the sooner we all get to be in heaven together. The salvation I enjoy and depend is the vineyard to be shared. It is not my story but God’s story of grace and love in Christ, shared through me – that I share, just you are to share yours, — God is working to reach others.
Bring Koinonia Home
To in bringing these chapters on Koinonia Fellowship to a close for now.. we are prepared to place ourselves in finishing God’s race, gathering God’s harvest, finding God’s lost coins, sheep, and children. When we all get to Heaven…