Do Not Let Them Tell You Grace Is Cheap!

Text: Matthew 20:1-16

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Today Jesus tells us a parable – a story. In the parable, we hear about a master of a house who goes out and hires workers to work in his vineyard. Now, some of these workers worked all day long and others only worked for one hour. At the end of the day, though, all the workers got paid, but they got paid the same wage. 

Hmm, is that fair? It certainly does not sound fair, for when you work long hours, you should get bigger pay. Shorter hours should result in smaller pay. But this is not what we hear in our parable. Everyone gets paid the same, regardless of the amount of time worked. It is almost as if the pay is not connected to the amount of work. In fact, this is exactly what Jesus is attempting to show us in the Gospel reading of Matthew.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus is teaching us about grace. He is showing us that the kingdom of heaven – the kingdom of grace – is not earned by what we do or don’t do. That is to say; God’s gracious disposition towards you and me is not based upon a quality that we have, the number of good works we do, or the strength of our faith. But rather, according to the Bible, grace is the good favor of God towards you and me; favor towards you and me that is not conditioned by what we think, say, or do. And because of God’s gracious favor to us, He does gracious things to us, such as forgiving us of our sins freely.

But this is not what we are used to in this life.  Things do not work this way in the real world, as we say.

Nothing in life is free.

No pain no gain.

Dreams do not become a reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.

Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.

Consistent hard work leads to success.

Never stop fighting until you arrive at your destined place.

This is how the world works – right? What you put in, is what you will get in return. But my friends, this is not how it is with grace.  This is not how it goes in our parable today.

You see, in our parable, Jesus separates the payment to the workers from the amount of work they did. Whether they worked one hour or 10, did not have any influence on the amount of pay that they received. And that is how it works with grace as well. Grace is freely given to us, we who are most undeserving and unworthy. It is not obtained by our hard work, our spiritual jumping jacks, our religious cartwheels, our pious sentiments, our holier than thou attitudes, or our completed good works checklists. Not even the most honorable and righteous persons who have sought and followed good works with burning zeal can earn grace.  Grace is not like some circus animal that does tricks for snacks. 

Dear friends, when we try to earn grace by our works – when good works do not follow from faith, but from our desire to somehow impress God, we sin. It is like this: when we do good things to try somehow and be a good Christian and influence God, we are not operating from faith but trying to butter God up with our so-called good abilities.  We cannot scratch God’s back, we cannot sweet talk God, and we certainly cannot play up to God with our tricks and actions, for when we do, we are assuming that we have something to offer God.  We are assuming that we can somehow impress Him or “Wow” Him when in reality we have nothing to give. The only thing that we can give unto God is our sin. No, we don’t even want to give Him our sin, for way too often we hide our sin and dress it up as if it is righteous.

Let’s be clear at this point; the problem is not with grace, but the problem is with our sinful nature. You see, the old Adam would rather purchase grace than obtain it for free, that way the Old Adam (i.e., the sinful nature) can take credit for grace. This is why we have seen throughout the ages, so many Christians and pagans flocking to false churches and false pastors to buy free grace. The old Adam always wants to have a seat at the table. And so when grace is given freely, the old Adam shakes his head and insists on paying for grace instead.  The old Adam wants to tuck the receipt in his pocket to show that he is in charge and that he has done something for salvation.  Five hundred years ago grace was purchased with indulgences. Today, crooked televangelists and corrupt celebrity pastors prey on the old Adam of Christians and pagans and get millions of dollars for their pocketbooks as well.  They sell grace that is supposed to be free.  Beneath all of this is the devil.  Yes, the devil loves to preach to the old Adam. The devil loves to encourage the sinful nature in its projects, dreams, and self-righteous works.  The devil longs to pervert grace by making people pay for that which is free.

Dear friends, as soon as we attempt to contribute anything towards grace, it ceases to be grace. As soon as our natural desire to acquire grace through some effort or offering of our own comes forth, we have poisoned grace. No, it is worse than that, we have perverted grace. To demand grace from God because of the amount of work, suffering, and toil that we have done is disastrous. Why is this so? Because grace is not dependent upon you and me - I repeat, grace is not dependent on you or me.  It has nothing to do with what you and I have done but has everything to do with what Jesus has done.

Dear Baptized Saints, do not let anyone tell you that just because grace does not depend on you, that it is somehow cheap grace. There are way too many religious fools that go around insisting that unless grace is dependent on something you think, say, or do; then it is cheap. This is nonsense!  This is garbage theology! Just because grace does not depend on you, does not mean that it is cheap. Grace is not some cheap commodity like cheap furniture on the side of a curb or free tube TVs at rummage sales.  No, grace is extremely expensive. Do not dare imagine that grace was done for nothing or costs little. It cost Jesus everything!

Jesus earned grace at the greatest expense. He earned it with his own blood, his own body, and his own life. Jesus laid down everything for you, to put down God’s wrath against you. He laid it all down to put down hell’s claim upon you. He laid it all down to smash the jaws of death that were upon you. He laid it all down to satisfy divine judgment against you.

So, when we try to purchase grace through our endeavors, works, and spiritual projects, we are essentially spitting in the face of Jesus saying that we don’t need Him. The fact of the matter is that we cannot think, say, or do anything by way of the Law to get grace or satisfy a righteous God. And so, grace must be based on Jesus, for Jesus is the only one who can earn saving grace for us.  This is why everything we teach and practice must center on the grace of Jesus. Otherwise, everything is lost.

We cannot expect grace apart from Jesus, for without Jesus we do not have grace. But with Jesus, and Jesus alone, there is grace for all – there is grace freely for you. 

It is rather simple, either salvation is up to you, or it is up to Jesus. If it is up to you, sin is with you; it is on your conscience, and it is a problem that you must overcome. And we know from mankind’s history that we are batting 0%.

Or, dear friends, it is up to Christ. And if it is up to Christ, you are not lost, you are saved by grace through faith. 

Dear Baptized Saints, it is up to Christ for you.  Grace is for you this day. God has chosen you, by grace, in your baptisms. You, as unworthy sinners, were baptized into Christ’s death and newness of life as a sheer gift!  God be praised for grace.

Dear Baptized Saints, you confess this day that you are poor, miserable sinners in thought, word, and deed.  However, grace is for you this day.  You are forgiven for Christ sake.  Yes, you!  You, you, you, you, you… are forgiven because Jesus was slain for the sin of the whole world and that includes you!  God be praised for grace! 

Dear Baptized Saints, you are invited to this altar today.  An altar for sinners only.  An altar where you receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.  You bring nothing to this table today, except sin.  And Jesus pours not wrath but His body and blood upon you mouths and tongues, saying to you, “take and eat; take and drink; your sins are forgiven.”  God be praised for grace! 

We have a gracious God, because of Jesus.  Do not seek, do not thirst, do not look anywhere else today, for God’s heart is open wide to you by grace through faith, because of Jesus. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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