November 8, 2019

Comparison: The Thief of Contentment

Matthew 20

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Laborers in the Vineyard

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius1 a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘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.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’2 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

A Mother's Request

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,3 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,4 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord,5 have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.


[1] 20:2 A denarius was a day's wage for a laborer
[2] 20:15 Or is your eye bad because I am good?
[3] 20:26 Greek diakonos
[4] 20:27 Or bondservant, or servant (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)
[5] 20:30 Some manuscripts omit Lord

Comparison: The Thief of Contentment

Key Verse | Matthew 20:16

"So the last will be first, and the first last."

Bio | Lora Strese

Hi, friends. My name is Lora Strese, and I'm excited to be on this Journey with you! I have been married to Jeff for 26 years, and I would say humor has been one of the things, besides God's lavish grace, that has kept us sane in our marriage. We also have two awesome young adults that we love hanging out with: Lynsey (22) and Joshua (18). Here are a few of my favorite things: sweet fellowship with my family and friends, cold and rainy weather, warm-scented candles, exercising with friends, and flowers.

Central Truth

We can trust God! He does not show partiality toward His disciples. When we walk in this truth, it can set us free to serve with pure motives and resist comparison.

Devotional | Matthew 20

In Matthew 20, Jesus endeavors to help us understand why the last will become first by sharing a parable about workers in a vineyard. Jesus tells of a landowner who hires men to work in his vineyard at...

In Matthew 20, Jesus endeavors to help us understand why the last will become first by sharing a parable about workers in a vineyard. Jesus tells of a landowner who hires men to work in his vineyard at different times of the day, beginning early in the morning and ending late in the afternoon. He agrees to pay the early laborers a denarius for the day, but with other laborers, he simply promises to pay them what is right. At the end of the day, the owner of the vineyard instructs his foreman to pay the wages, beginning with the last ones first. It is important to note that each one of the laborers received the same amount, one denarius, no matter what time they started nor how long they worked.

As you can imagine, the laborers who started in the early morning grumbled and complained that they had worked longer and therefore deserved more. Jesus emphasizes that the landowner had not been unfair or unjust. The landowner reminded the early laborers that at the beginning of the day they had agreed to accept a denarius for their work. Only when the early laborers compared themselves to the latecomers did they become dissatisfied with the promised wages for the day.

I, too, can grumble and complain when I don't understand God's ways or compare my life to those around me. I start to measure my "hard work" with what I think I deserve. When I serve my husband, family, friends, and church with the wrong motives, I also become dissatisfied with the good things the Lord has right in front of me. When I choose, though, to trust the ultimate landowner of my soul, Jesus, then I can have a "right view" of God's grace—grace He extends to me no matter how life is going at that moment. If I am honest, I want to be first in getting good rewards, but the Lord quickly reminds me that He has already given me the best reward—a relationship with Jesus Christ! 

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Discussion Questions

1. Do you struggle with comparison? If so, why not memorize Scripture that would help you fight the battle? One of my favorites is Philippians 2:3-4.

2. Do you have people in your life with whom you can openly share the struggle of discontentment or comparison? If not, consider getting in biblical community and being honest with a few trusted friends.

3. If you struggle with comparison, consider writing a gratitude list of the things you are thankful for in those specific areas.

8 Comments available

Tiffany Wilkins 4 months ago

Hi sweet friend! What a beautiful and heart felt devotional you wrote! Thank you for being authentic in sharing that you sometimes struggle with comparison too. You consistently fight the good fight and spur me on in my walk with the Lord. Grateful for your wisdom and the way you live it out! Love-Tiff

Michael Scaman 4 months ago

The mother’s request for greatness for her sons was not granted (in the manner she asked) but the two lepers request for mercy was (was she aware Jesus said he must die?).

Before we serve God, he must serve us. Matt 20:27,28 “the son of man has not come to be served but to serve and give himself a ransom for many”. Then we serve him acceptably.

Michael Scaman 4 months ago

Don’t give up!

“… The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more…”

If you need to then dig through a roof to get to Jesus.

Robert Owens 4 months ago

Good morning Lora, What a special message you have given to us today. Even though we do not understand God’s ways, it I helpful for others to help us to see what sometimes we miss. Robert Owens Mason, Texas

Greg Jones 4 months ago

vv29-34 Two blind men shouting, ““Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Reading Matthew 22:41-45 I assume they have the wrong impression of Jesus. Jesus asked them what they wanted, others following Jesus rebuked them, having compassion he restored their sight without correcting them about who he claimed to be. And it says they followed him.

They are nameless, but I would be interested to know what became of them.

Scott Jones 4 months ago

Q3: If you use the Echo prayer app, you can use #thanksgiving to create a gratitude prayer list.

Sue: loved the Sproul blog. I think our country is the beneficiary of grace in that God has been long suffering in tolerating our increasing apostasy. Sadly I think it will be a surprise to many when justice comes, despite the warnings from many watchmen.

Sue Bohlin 4 months ago

SUPER devo, Lora! Thanks especially for suggesting a gratitude list, which is one of the “power tools” for Christian living. Man, what a difference it makes!

I love this parable of the crazy-generous landowner because it is one of the best descriptions of grace in the Bible. The more the day wore on, the bigger the man’s grace was manifest. And yet the ones who had agreed to work a day’s wage for a day’s wage were treated quite fairly. What a great reminder not to EXPECT grace due to comparison, but merely to be humbly grateful for it.

We heard R.C. Sproul tell an AMAZING story about what happened when college students expected grace. He blogged about it here:

Hope Harris 4 months ago

GM JTJ Peeps,

Verses 26-29 stand out to me as the model for leadership. Serve others, place others before yourself, and pour your life out for the sake of the kingdom.

Wiersbe states the following:“The key to greatness is not found in position or power, but in character… We must identify with Jesus Christ in His service and suffering.”

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