Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies - Bible Study 22nd February 2022

Bible Study 22nd February 2022

Methodist Way of Life and Transfiguration Sunday 
We will challenge injustice.

Over the past two weeks we have looked at the Methodist Way of Life Themes
-We will help people in our communities and beyond.
-We will care for creation and all God’s gifts.

And now to this weeks theme:

We will challenge injustice.

Setting the scene

As we turn to God’s Holy Word can we have in our mind the question, “How can we practically show God's love and to challenge injustice? 

Let’s read what Almighty God says about how he views these things.

Psalm 11:7
For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face

Psalm 37:27-29 
Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.

Psalm 106:3 
Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times

Amos 5:15
Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

Amos 5:24
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream

Isaiah 1:17 
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.

Isaiah 61:8
“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them

Micah 6:8 
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God

Matthew 12:18
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

Matthew 23:23
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former

Luke 18:1-8

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” ...

Romans 12:19 

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world

1 Timothy 5:16
If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

Matthew 20: 1-26 - The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Footnotes
a.Matthew 20:2 A denarius was the usual daily wage of a day laborer.


Comment
This parable is unique to Matthew’s Gospel. The owner of a vineyard hires day laborers at various times throughout the day. The ones hired at six o'clock in the morning put in a full day’s work. Those hired at five o'clock put in only one hour of work. But the owner pays everyone a full day’s wage (a denarius). He goes out of his way to make sure that everyone knows that all are paid the same in spite of the different number of hours worked. Not surprisingly, those hired first complain that they worked longer but earned no more money than those who started late in the day. “But the owner replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?... 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” (Matt. 20:13, 15-16).
Unlike the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:3-9; 18-23), Jesus does not give us an explicit interpretation. As a result, scholars have offered many interpretations. Because the people in the story are laborers and managers, some assume it is about work. In that case, it seems to say, “Don't compare your pay to others” or “Don't be dissatisfied if others get paid more or work less than you do in a similar job.” It could be argued that these are good practices for workers. If you earn a decent wage, why make yourself miserable because others have it even better? But this interpretation of the parable can also be used to justify unfair or abusive labor practices. Some workers may receive lower wages for unfair reasons, such as race or sex or immigrant status. Does Jesus mean that we should be content when we or other workers are treated unfairly?
Moreover, paying people the same regardless of how much work they do is a questionable business practice. Wouldn’t it give a strong incentive to all workers to show up at five o'clock in the afternoon the next day? And what about making everyone’s pay public? It does reduce the scope for intrigue. But is it a good idea to force those working longer hours to watch while those who worked only one hour are paid an identical wage? It seems calculated to cause labor strife. Pay for nonperformance, to take the parable literally, doesn’t seem to be a recipe for business success. Can it really be that Jesus advocates this pay practice?
Perhaps the parable is not really about work. The context is that Jesus is giving surprising examples of those who belong to God’s kingdom: for example, children (Matt. 19:14) who legally don’t even own themselves. He is clear that the kingdom does not belong to the rich, or at least not to very many of them (Matt. 19:23-26). It belongs to those who follow him, in particular if they suffer loss. “Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first” (Matt. 19:30). The present parable is followed immediately by another ending with the same words, “the first will be last, and the last will be first” (Matt. 20:16). This suggests that the story is a continuation of the discussion about those to whom the kingdom belongs. Entry into God’s kingdom is not gained by our work or action, but by the generosity of God.
Once we understand the parable to be about God’s generosity in the kingdom of heaven, we may still ask how it applies to work. If you are being paid fairly, the advice about being content with your wage may stand. If another worker receives an unexpected benefit, wouldn’t it be graceful to rejoice, rather than grumble?
But there is also a broader application. The owner in the parable pays all the workers enough to support their families.[2]The social situation in Jesus’ day was that many small farmers were being forced off their land because of debt they incurred to pay Roman taxes. This violated the God of Israel’s command that land could not be taken away from the people who work it (Leviticus 25:8-13), but of course this was of no concern to the Romans. Consequently, large pools of unemployed men gathered each morning, hoping to be hired for the day. They are the displaced, unemployed, and underemployed workers of their day. Those still waiting at five o'clock have little chance of earning enough to buy food for their families that day. Yet the vineyard owner pays even them a full day’s wage.
If the vineyard owner represents God, this is a powerful message that in God’s kingdom, displaced and unemployed workers find work that meets their needs and the needs of those who depend on them. We have already seen Jesus saying that, “laborers deserve their food” (Matt. 10:10). This does not necessarily mean that earthly employers have a responsibility for meeting all the needs of their employees. Earthly employers are not God. Rather, the parable is a message of hope to everyone struggling to find adequate employment. In God’s kingdom, we will all find work that meets our needs. The parable is also a challenge to those who have a hand in shaping the structures of work in today’s society. Can Christians do anything to advance this aspect of God’s kingdom right now?
Ref: https://www.theologyofwork.org


Comments:

-We are all laborers in God's Kingdom and we are called to do work for his kingdom. Some get the calling early in life and some get the calling at their end stage in life. It does not matter as long as we heed the call. But looking at the parable from a labour union's point of view it would seem gross injustice to pay the same but taken from a spiritual point it seems correct when we take one denarius reward to refer to eternal life. You can't get more eternal life and hence the wage stands for eternal life.

-Whilst this is true that we are all labourers in God's Kingdom and that we are called to do work for his kingdom it does seem on the face of it to be unfair for God to pay the same wage to people who worked different lengths of time, unless that wage is indeed something that only comes in one amount. Only eternal life is like that--you can't get more of it or less of it because it's value is always infinite.

In this parable, the master does not deny that his payments seem unfair. His response is not, "Sorry, but there's no way I could pay you any more than I paid to the people who worked less." Instead he says, "Don't I have the right to be generous with whomever I choose." His response is not that what he's doing is fair, but that it's generous. If that's true, the payment could represent virtually anything, not only eternal life.

What if the wage stands BOTH for eternal life (entrance to God's Kingdom) AND for working according to God's values here and now? We tried to explore both of these possibilities, although I definitely respect and understand how you might disagree.

-Fundamentally though, this parable is not about social justice or about how to run a business.Rather it is about the Kingdom or Reign of God and what role God calls us to fulfil. What God asks us to do and how we shall be rewarded are not done on merit but grace. Life itself and all that follows are due to God's pure gift. Our response at all times is gratitude, not complaint based on human values.


Conclusion and Prayer 
Loving Father help us in our desire to show your love to others;  to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you. Amen.