Sermon + Worker’s Privilege

Below is Pastor Brian Campbell’s sermon outline and audio recording from St. Mark’s of his sermon on September 20, 2020, the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, based on Matthew 20.1-16, the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. His 90 Second Sermon Summary is also embedded.

Pastor Brian spoke about we have no problem with understanding this parable in terms of grace, but struggle how else to apply it in our lives. We, like the early workers, need to work on paying attention and calling out our privilege and entitlement, and appreciating justice for those who were not originally hired to work in the vineyard.

Pastor Brian Campbell’s Sermon on September 20 2020 from St. Mark

May we learn from God’s words & stories, working to bring the Kin-dom here to Earth. AMEN.

  • If you think that this parable, the story of the vineyard workers is unfair, can I get a show of hands, or horns, or some feedback in the comments?
    • Many people believe the way the owner of the vineyard treated the workers whom he hired at the beginning of the day was unfair.
      • A commentary I read accuses Jesus of being against the American Protestant work ethic, and for socialism. It said this parable discourages hard work and encourages the workers to be lazy and rely on generosity and charity.
        • The commentator said the parable was “un-American.”
    • They got what the wage they agreed to work for.
      • So too did those he hired in his other four trips to the marketplace.
        • I will pay you whatever is right. [A]
      • We find it unfair they all received the daily wage, even if they only worked one hour.
        • The last group, the five o’clock hires worked for an hour, but they worked that day, and so were paid the daily wage.
        • Everybody worked that day, and so everyone received the daily wage.
        • This parable is unfair if you identify with the early hires.
          • That is your privilege.
  • Let’s look at the parable from a different perspective.
    • When asked to teach his followers how to pray, among the petitions Jesus gave them was Give us this day our daily bread. [B]
      • Most people had to work each day to get that daily bread. If you didn’t own or work on a farm or some other business, you were a day laborer. That meant you got up before sunrise and went to the local hiring place, usually the town marketplace, and would hope to get picked to work a 12-hour shift, and be paid the daily wage.
        • All so you could provide for your family their daily bread.
        • What could those hired at five o’clock provide for their family on one-twelfth of the daily wage, or maybe rounded up to 10% out of generosity.
          • Here are your daily crumbs.
        • By paying everyone the daily wage, the landowner gave everyone’s family a chance to be fed.
          • Is that fair? Better, this is just. This is the justice of God’s kin-dom.
  • The verse that points out the privilege the first hired have and that we relate to is in verse twelve, These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat. [C]
    • They are upset that others were paid the same for working less hours.
      • But their real point is you have made them equal to us.
    • Why were they hired at the beginning of the day when others were not?
      • Did they have no obstacles to getting to the marketplace; no children or elders to take care of? No special arrangements that had to be made?
      • When they got there, did they have the “RIGHT” look? Were they strong looking young men? Not troublesome – like SOME people. Able bodied? Not weak, or ill, or having some issue? Not old? Not too young? Not a woman?
    • Those hired at the beginning of the day may have been the most preferred or desirable for the needed job. But they weren’t the only one who could do the job.
      • But because they WERE hired first, they felt privileged and entitled.
  • That is the problem of our society. Some feel privileged and entitled, and they get upset when you make others equal to them.
    • For someone to be made equal to them, they have to be losing something.
      • That is the complaint of the early workers, if late comers get the daily wage, we should get more because we worked more. Even if they agreed to work all day for the daily wage.
      • The early workers have lost nothing. The landowner has the funds to pay everyone.
        • In the underlying explanation of God’s grace in the Kin-dom that is to come, God has more than enough grace for everyone, be they life-long believers, or those found in the marketplace at the last moment.
        • We’re ok with that understanding. God’s grace and forgiveness is God’s to give.
          • We receive what we need, and it isn’t at the expense of anyone, and their grace doesn’t come at our expense.
          • God’s grace comes to those whether they have followed Christ their whole lives, or if their journey has been relatively short.
        • We get the greater story Jesus is describing about what the Kin-dom of heaven is like, but we struggle with how to put that into practice to bring the Kin-dom here on earth.
  • We don’t like the idea or possibility that you have made them equal to us.
    • That there are some in our society that have more privilege is not news, except to those who have the privilege.
      • They only realize it when they feel challenged and threatened because you have made them equal to us.
      • They haven’t lost anything, except their advantage.
        • Is that fair? I don’t know, but it is just.
        • The only thing the privileged dislike more than having others made equal is being called out on their privilege.
  • Get ready to have your toes stepped on.
    • White people have the privilege of not being afraid of police. People of color don’t.
      • I wrote an article about that for the Synod’s Building Bridges project. [D]
      • An even better article was written by Matthew Stafford, the quarterback of my Detroit Lions.[E]
        • The Lions were the first team to cancel a practice to protest the killing of Jacob Blake by Kenosha, Wisconsin police.
        • In his article, Stafford describes what one of his teammates has said he would do if pulled over by the police. Trey Flowers, a  6’2, 270 lb. defensive end said he would ask officers to handcuff him lying on the ground so they would not see him as a threat.
      • I admire the work police do, and I want to hold them to the highest standards, and they should want that as well.
        • I don’t want unarmed black people to die at the hands of police at twice the rate of white people. I don’t want anyone unarmed to die at the hands of police.
      • But when some people hear Black Lives Matter, they internally tack on MORE to fuel their outrage when really what they are upset about is the effort that you have made them equal to us.
    • People accept people of different backgrounds, races and heritages, but they still struggle with fully accepting gay, lesbians and others in the LGBTQ community.
      • They allow old prejudices to remain while they call on the prejudices against them and theirs to be rejected.
      • And if you want to claim a Biblical basis for your bigotry, I invite you to actually read the book and if you want to lift up a couple of passages, please let me show you the errors of your ways.
  • This church together process we are considering embarking on is going to be a challenge, and we need to all confess that we have areas where we feel privilege and where we are uncomfortable when you have made them equal to us.
    • We have to realize there are places where we feel first, and need to accept being last so that those who are last will be first. [F]
    • We have to put faith in God that we will whatever is right.
      • Will that be that fair? I don’t know, but it will be just.
    • God’s Kin-dom where all are treated justly seems good to me, for I know I am one who has continually fallen short and need all of the daily crumbs of grace I am given.



[A]    Matthew 20:4.

[B]     Matthew 6:11.

[C]    Matthew 20:12.



[F]     Matthew 20:16.

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