TEXT: Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 20:1-15

We all have expectations.  We expect that if we put in a day’s work, we should get a day’s wages.  We expect that if we carefully plan for special events and special days, everything should turn out just as we want.  And we often expect that if we do a good deed for someone, that same person should return the favor to us.

However, the problem with expectations is that they subtly become demands.  And if our demands for ourselves and other people go unchecked, we will end up with a boatload of disappointment simmering in our souls. So how SHOULD we think about our expectations?  How should we work, plan, and relate to other people?  Jesus provides us with needed insight in Matthew 20 that can help us to guard our hearts against the dangers of a demanding spirit.  But read this parable cautiously, since what Jesus portrays will run counter to the way we normally think—especially about God!

Matthew 20:1-15 is a story about the kingdom of heaven.  That is, it was a description of how a person was to live and think as they came under the rule and reign of the Messiah.  In this parable Jesus tells of a landowner who needed workers to care for his vineyard.  It was common in the first century for an “employer” to go into the marketplace, negotiate a wage with anyone willing to work, and then send the hired hand to the worksite.  As the story unfolds we are told that the landowner went to this marketplace four more times to hire workers.  Very little is said about what they would be paid.  When evening came (probably 6 PM), the landowner sent his foreman to pay the workers.  He started with the last ones and gave them a denarius—a typical day’s wages.  Those who were hired first saw what happened and “assumed” they would get more.  But to their great surprise and disappointment, they got exactly what was agreed upon in the beginning of the day. 

The parable ends with an exchange between the workers hired first and the landowner over what seemed like gross unfairness.  Be sure to notice the landowner’s response in verse 15, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my business?”  Another translation says, “Don’t I have a right to be generous?”  This verse is the key to understanding what Jesus was teaching. You see, this parable is not a story about good or bad labor relations.  It is a story about God.  And if we are going to guard our hearts against the evil influences that swirl about us, we need to know clearly the will and ways of God.  Or to put it another way:


Why is that the case? Why should we seek to please God as a way of life?  It is because in everything that He does, God is good.  He is merciful.  He is perfect, and extends perfect love to His redeemed ones (cf. ROM 8:31-39; COL 2:13; 1 JN 1:5).  There is no way that we can charge Him with being unfair.  So our response to God should be one of seeking to please the righteous, perfect, sovereign of the universe (cf. COL 3:17). 

And what will it take for us to please our God and Savior? It might be best to start with a change of perspective.  That is, we need to take stock of who we really are as Christ-followers.  We were redeemed out of our sin-infested lives to worship and serve the King.  God would be perfectly just if He didn’t extend any blessings at all.  But in Christ we have more than we can imagine or think (cf. EPH 1:3-14). 

So stop demanding that the Heavenly Father owes you, or that you should get more than someone else.  You already have spiritual riches beyond what you deserve.  So guard your heart against a demanding spirit, and choose to delight in our good and gracious God.

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