(Lectionary 25) From “Saving the Ants”
Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud
Matt. 20: 1-16 “’Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” (NLT)
Preparation: Bring six fairly heavy books for volunteers to carry and four coins to pay volunteers.
Has anyone here ever worked to earn money? (Wait for a response.) What did you do? How long did you work? Were you tired when you got done? Those of you who have worked for money, did you think that the payment was fair?
Would anyone like to earn some money this morning? I need four volunteers. I’ll give each of you a job and pay you when you’re done. (Choose four kids and have them line up.) Now, I’ll ask my first volunteer; if I pay you one nickel, will you carry these three books to the back of the church and up here to the front again, three times? (If they agree, let them start right away, while you continue to speak.) Now, to the second volunteer; will you carry two books down the aisle and back, two times? (Let second volunteer begin their job.) Now, the next; will you carry one book down the aisle and back just one time?(They may begin.) And for the last one; your job is to walk to the first pew and back. You don’t have to carry any books.
Will all my workers come and receive their wages now? Here’s a nickel for each of you, and I’m going to pay last the person that I hired first. (Distribute the money.) Everyone got the same amount, didn’t they? Raise your hand if you think this is fair. Raise your hand if you think it’s not fair, if you think the one who did more work should get more money.
Thank you, workers. You can sit down now and rest from your labors. Did you know that Jesus told a story much like this? In Matthew, Jesus told his disciples that the kingdom of heaven is like a boss who went out early in the morning to look for workers to gather grapes in his vineyard. He told them what he would pay before they started, and he hired workers from early in the morning until late in the day. Some worked all day long and some worked for only one hour, but they all got exactly the same wage.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t think this was fair. They knew what the story meant. Jesus was talking about the kingdom of heaven. If you follow Jesus and obey him and love him, will you go to heaven when you die? Of course you will. What if someone asks Jesus into their heart just a few minutes before they die? They will go to heaven, too! It’s sad that they had to spend most of their life without having Jesus as their friend, but even if someone doesn’t know Jesus until the very end of their life, the Lord still welcomes them with open arms. It’s a good thing for all of us that God is loving instead of fair. Even though we are all sinners, God loves every one of us.
Prayer: Thank you for the free gift of eternal life, dear Lord. Thank you for welcoming everyone with open arms, no matter where or when they accept your love.