History records that 2000 years ago Jesus came to earth and claimed to be God, undercover. He came and dwelt among us. He watched and examined mankind. He was horrified to see how the love, message, and grace of God had been distorted. The religious community of his day had distorted His character, His message, and the whole way to connect with God. So he began to go around talking to anyone who would listen about the incredible and powerful truth about God. His goal was to Uncover What Had Gone Wrong, But More Importantly to UNCOVER Who God is.
One of the fundamental problems Jesus stumbled upon -over and over- was the belief that Relating to God is Like a Paycheck. He discovered that the Paycheck Mentality had taken over. The religious system of the day taught that if you are good enough… If you follow the rules… If you try to be a good person by doing your best and living wholesome lives, you will get a nice paycheck from God: His blessing.
His ticket to heaven was one hard day’s work away. If you don’t follow the rules and the guidelines, you end up having your pay docked. They taught that you would lose His favor and God. They taught that God would reward you with a big fat “You’re Fired” pink slip at the end of your life.
The Paycheck Mentality is alive and well today. The problem with this belief is that it made (and makes) religious people incredibly arrogant, proud, and judgmental -thinking that they had “earned more than others.” It made them presumptuous thinking they could “demand of God” what “they deserved.” It created a constant sense of fear in daily living, wondering if you had done enough.
If you had clocked in often enough, perhaps you could earn favor with God. And to those who weren’t church goers, they felt constantly shunned, fearful of God’s wrath, rejection, and being disowned.
So Jesus Uncovered A PAYCHECK Mindset that left His people both proud, distant from God, and thinking God is a boss to negotiate with. So into this Jesus decides to tell a story. His goal was to Uncover this PAYCHECK MIndset that was going on and to Reveal a MERCY Mindset that could change their hearts.
In Order to Uncover How We Approach God, we must contrast the Paycheck Mentality from the Mercy Mentality.
I. Uncover the “Paycheck Mentality”
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
So, what is going on here? Maybe you like me, are as upset at the landowner -as the laborers are. They worked harder, therefore, they should be paid more, right? This seems so unfair… And yet, the landowner seems justified in saying, “You agreed to a denairus, why are you complaining?” What is Jesus trying to teach us? What is he trying to Uncover about God? There is a tension here between fairness and justice between the employer and the employee… Jesus is trying to uncover something about This Paycheck Mentality.
Jesus tells this story right after two of his disciples approach him and said, “Can we sit at your right hand and left when we all get to heaven? After all we gave up a lot for you. They said, ““See, we have left all that we had and followed You. Therefore what shall we have? Can we have the “big seats” it was then that Jesus launched into this story. And in this story, he was teaching them about “HOW TO APPROACH GOD.” Every time Jesus told them a story, someone represented God, and someone represented the wrong religious way to approach God, and someone represented the correct way to approach God. Jesus wanted to Uncover the right way to approach God
The Paycheck Mentality: The first laborers approached God using the “paycheck mentality.”: They said, God we will do “x” amount of work. If you pay us “y” for it. Right. So they worked all day, thinking they had received a great deal. Their whole approach was one of works—and payment: Effort vs Reward. But what happened? At the end of the day, when they “got what they deserved,” they were angry. They complained against the landowner. They said, “Why is this?” The boss’s answer was this: When you approach God with the paycheck mentality, you will be very disappointed, both in this life and the next. So, what do I mean when I say this? If you have lived a basically “good life” and done basically some “good things” then I promise you that you will struggle with frustration at God more than your younger brother or sister who has been more of the rebel. When bad things happen to you, you get angry at God… You say hey “We had a deal! I live a moral life… you keep bad things from happening to me. Right!? You find yourself complaining a lot. Trying to use God as a paycheck a dispensor to make him do what you “deserve”. And often we take that mindset into our marriages and our families. We work hard and expect a “paycheck from our spouse… our kids.” And when they don’t give us what we deserve.. we get angry, ane end up in self-pity, etc.
For more information, check out www.godonomics.com