Do You Begrudge My Generosity (Matthew 20)
- Order of Service: Matins
- Hymns: LSB #838, 555, 738
Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? (Matthew 20:15)
This morning's sermon is the result of a request two weeks ago when the article that is the insert this morning. It recounts the miraculous healing of an Avoca man's “very bad” back. A member asked me whether I thought it was true or not. I didn't find the article until last weekend when I finally had the chance to read it in the Murray County Wheel-Herald.
The article talks about the visiting evangelist laying his hands on Mr. Messenbrink. There are ten instances where people have hands laid on them for healing in the Bible. But does this still happen today? Do people really have the gift of healing?
St. Paul lists healing among the spiritual gifts God has appointed for the Church: “First apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.” Later, St. Paul then says, “But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”
Many of the spiritual gifts of the Apostles have faded away into history. But what about healings? Many TV preachers claim to have the gift of healing. To be able to heal you of the most terrible diseases. All for just a small monetary donation to the number at the bottom of the screen. These guys have given the spiritual gift of healing a bad rap. But does their misuse and abuse of it make it not exist anymore? Miraculous healings are one of God's spiritual gifts to His Church. He asks you, “Do you begrudge My generosity?”
God has graciously and generously given His Church an abundance of spiritual gifts. Some He has allowed to expire. The rest He distributes to whomever He wishes whenever He desires. Jesus shows us this through the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. The vineyard owner went out and hired workers early in the morning, at the third hour, the sixth hour, the ninth hour and the eleventh hour. To each he gave the same promise. A denarius to work in the vineyard. God has done this for each of us. He has given us the same promise, no matter what time of life we have been called to faith. He has given us the forgiveness of sins, everlasting life and the salvation of our souls. On top of this, He gives us a variety of spiritual gifts according to the measure of faith given to us.
But we want to begrudge God's generosity and demand more than what is given. History is filled with examples of begrudging His generosity.
The Patriarchs, at the beginning of time, refused to trust in God's providence:
- Adam and Eve listened to the serpent's lies and ate the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
- Abram had been given the promise of God's care as he sojourned in foreign lands. Twice he tried to save his own skin by passing Sarai his wife off as his sister.
- Jacob had received the promise of Isaac's blessing, but he took matters into his own hands by dressing up as his older brother to deceive his blind father.
- The Prophets dealt with bewilderment with Israelite society and the constant threat of their neighboring enemies.
- Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. He saw the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying off of God's people into captivity in Babylon. He himself was forcibly taken to Egypt.
- Ezekiel's entire prophetic career was in the Babylonian Captivity. He had been taken captive, along with Daniel, in Nebuchadnezzar's first invasion.
- Elijah lived with the constant threat of death. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel wanted him dead because he spoke out against their idolatrous worship of Baal and Ashtoreth.
- Jonah first refused to go to Nineveh to preach repentance. When he finally went, he became upset that God showed mercy on the pagan city.
- John the Baptizer, the last of the Old Testament prophets, sought to prepare the children of Israel for Jesus' ministry. He was beheaded for preaching the Law against Herod Antipas and Herodias.
The Apostles dealt with their own misconceptions of the Messiah. They openly questioned whether Jesus was the Messiah or not.
- James and John sought positions of power and authority in Jesus' kingdom. They were rebuked by Jesus and the other ten Apostles.
- Judas betrayed Jesus to force Him to take His rightful place on David's throne. Judas believed in and wanted a military commander for a Messiah. When he saw that Jesus stood condemned, he desperately sought absolution, but he found none.
- Saul of Tarsus “made havoc of the Church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” Saul, like the rest of the Pharisees, saw the Messiah as a great moral teacher. This crucified carpenter from Nazareth couldn't be the great teacher to come.
The Reformers were disillusioned with what had been allowed to happen in the Church under the Pope's tyranny. The bishops and priests, through the Pope's blessing, tormented the people with solid proclamations of God's wrath but very little, if any, of His Gospel promises. Martin Luther wrote his monumental work, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, three years after posting his 95 Theses. In it, he compares the Pope's tyranny through the Dark and Middle Ages to Judah's exile into Babylon. Much of his thoughts about Church reform began in this book.
In these last days, we are tempted to believe that the Bible is out-of-date. That it contains fairy tales and “irreverent, silly myths.” That it no longer has any bearing or relevance to our lives. Unfortunately, there are way too many people that believe this today.
Despite your begrudging, God is still generous to you. God holds out His promise to everyone. He doesn't only tell those who will like or those who agree with Him. He specifically gives His promise to those who hate Him. Jesus died for the sins of those wanted nothing to do with Him. Those for whom Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He continues to give this forgiveness to you, even when you don't want it. When you're happy and content with your sins. He forgives you fully and freely. As He has forgiven everyone fully and freely. This is reason to rejoice in God's generosity instead of begrudging it.
Even when we begrudge God's generosity, we still have great reason to rejoice. We don't deserve His generosity. Just like the workers who only worked an hour didn't deserve to be paid the same as those who worked all twelve hours of the day. History also illustrates this point. The Patriarchs rejoiced in insane promises.
- Noah built the Ark and preached about the Flood for a century. A Flood that was coming, even though no rain had fallen on the earth. Every person on earth descends from him.
- Abram's name was changed to Abraham. Through that name change, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. God promises this when he is ninety-nine years old! When his only child was not the child of promise.
- Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers because of his prophetic dreams about the future. He remained faithful to God while a slave and while wrongfully imprisoned. He rose to become the vice-governor of Egypt. Just as God had told him years before.
- The Prophets faithfully proclaimed God's Word to the people around them. They were watchmen over God's flock.
- Isaiah preached to a people facing the reality of exile that God would keep a remnant in His grace and care.
- Elijah kept his faith even though he thought he was the only one left in Israel that worshipped the one true God. His contest on Mount Carmel proved that the LORD is God and not Baal.
The Apostles saw the Lord Jesus Christ after He rose from the dead.
- St. Matthew wrote Jesus' biography for a Jewish audience to prove that He is the Messiah and the Savior for whom they were waiting.
- St. John was the last of the Apostles to die. He is the only one who died of natural causes.
- St. Luke wrote his Gospel for a Gentile audience while he worked with St. Paul on his missionary journeys.
- St. Peter and St. Paul worked with St. John Mark to prepare him to be a pastor in Egypt. Mark's Gospel contains much of Peter's preaching.
The Reformers brought about a resurgence of Gospel preaching in Christian pulpits. While at the Wartburg castle, Luther translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew in German. One passage struck him as he began to realize its true implications: "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" Once Luther realized the magnitude of God revealing His righteousness through the Gospel of Jesus' death and resurrection, everything changed in his mindset and teaching. The Gospel gave him the strength to stand before the Emperor and say, "Here I stand. I can do no other."
On the basis of the Reformers teachings', we rejoice in the pure doctrine that God reveals in His Word. While some cringe at the mention of doctrine, it informs our practice and our life. God gave it to us so that we rejoice in His Gospel. The most important doctrine. The doctrine upon which the Church stands or falls. Justification by faith alone through grace alone on account of Christ alone. We rejoice in this knowledge. Jesus died and rose to forgive your sins. In this forgiveness you rejoice with every generation. With all the workers in God's vineyard. And you rejoice with Mr. Messenbrink.
In God's generosity, He has given many gifts to the Church. Some are very common and sometimes considered mundane. Others are extremely rare and often sensationalized when they occur. One of the great things about this article is that it is a local event. We can follow-up with Mr. Messenbrink to check the validity of his healing. Miraculous healings like this are rare nowadays but not impossible. It is another manifestation of God's question: "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to Me? Or do you begrudge My generosity?" Amen.