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Lowell Brueckner

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Two Opposing Views


  Two Opposing Views Among Church People

A modern vineyard in Israel

 “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?”                                      Matthew 20:15

I would like to ask you to read verses 1-16 of Matthew 20 to refresh your memory concerning this parable. I do not want to take the space to completely copy it in this article, but I will relate the account to you.

The Lord’s parable concerned an owner of a vineyard, who went out early in the morning, looking for people to hire for work in his vineyard. He found some immediately and contracted them for the normal day’s wages of a denarius. Needing more help, I suppose, he found others, who were unemployed, at nine o’clock and, without stating a fixed wage, he said he would give them what was right. He did the same at noon, then at three in the afternoon and finally at five.

The day’s work ended at six and the employer sent his foreman to call the workers to receive their pay, but he wanted to pay first, the ones employed last. Apparently, he then paid in order those who worked three hours, then six, nine, and finally those, who had been there from the beginning of the work day at six a.m. The first were last, and the last were first. That is all that we know about this workday and those involved in it, so we don’t want to add any speculation.

Those who came to work first, watched as the last workers were paid a full denarius and anticipated that they would surely receive more. But no, when their turn came, they were disappointed to see that they also received a denarius. They actually expressed their complaint to the owner, telling him that they considered this to be unfair treatment. They weighed the work of one hour against their twelve hour labor throughout the hot day. Please note the argument, “You have made them equal to us.”

The owner addressed one of them individually in order to ask him, personally, a question about his reaction. First of all, he reminded him that he had received exactly the wages, to which he had agreed. Then, he revealed to him something of his own character, though it was really none of his business. 1) He had a total right to do as he wished with his own money and 2) he wanted to be especially good to the last group. As far as we are concerned, the important thing to gain from any portion of Scripture is a higher concept of God. In this parable, He is sovereign… He does what He pleases with what is His and in doing so, He acts in kindness. We also want to keep in mind his question to this man: “Is your eye evil”? In other words, is your point-of-view causing you to entertain an evil jealousy and resentment?

There have always been two basic points of view among the vast variety of people who attend churches which, at least in name, are Christian. We could call them the religious view, as opposed to the gospel view, or a legalistic conviction, as opposed to grace. One view will result in eternal condemnation, while the other will save. One is evil and proud, while the other is grateful and humble.

Some background to a situation from David’s history

I want to pull up a situation and present it to you, which evoked the same reaction that we saw in the parable. It is from the life of David and his 600 men, shortly before David became king. First, we must see some background, which will help explain David’s actions in the story, which occurs in 1 Samuel 30.

The background we need to see begins in 1 Samuel 27. The king of David’s own, beloved nation is pursuing him and would like to see him dead. Up until this time, he has been in his home territory of Judah and they of his own tribe have betrayed him on two or three occasions. He decides that he would be safer among Israel’s chief enemies, the Philistines. “And David said in his heart, ‘Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines.”

He goes to a chief city of the Philistines, Gath, and approached its prince, Achish. It is not hard for Achish to believe that David is totally embittered, because of the treatment that he has received from his own countrymen. In order to add to Achish’s confidence in him, David raids various places and reports to the prince that he has attacked various Judean clans. Having 600 rather rough and crude men under him, of course, David wants to keep everyone busy. He actually attacked several of Israel’s enemies, the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, and left no one alive to tell the story, in order to contradict his account to Achish. This move actually did get King Saul off his back and he thoroughly pulled the wool over the Philistine’s eyes, but this deception got David into other very serious problems. He was with Achish for 16 months.

In his actions, it isn’t hard to find some critical defects in David’s character at this time. Knowing these things, we might find the scriptural assessment of David as “a man after God’s own heart” rather contradictory. Years ago, I found a note in the Amplified Bible that satisfied me concerning him:

How could David be ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (13:14) and lie and deceive like that? God hates lying (Pr.12:22), and those who deal in falsehood and deception are to be excluded from Heaven (Rev.22:15). The truth is that David had gone through such a long period of persecution and threatening circumstances that he had fallen into a bit of mistrust of God Himself. God had sworn to make him king, to rid him of his enemies, to give him a sure house; yet here he was in a panic, concluding God had forsaken him and that if he was to remain alive he must manage it himself. It was very dishonoring to God. But God was standing by His stricken child, waiting for the moment when he would realize his own utter helplessness and turn in blessed surrender to the almighty arms of Him who had been watching over him all along.

Achish had given David and his men the city of Ziklag, in which to live and now they accompany Achish far north, where he will take part in a major Philistine offensive against Israel and every prince is involved. Here’s the biblical account in 1 Samuel 29:1-2: “Then the princes of the Philistines gathered together all their armies at Aphek, and the Israelites encamped by a fountain which is in Jezreel. And the lords of the Philistines passed in review by hundreds and by thousands, but David and his men passed in review at the rear with Achish.” What a mess David has gotten himself into!  

He continues his charade before Achish and if God does not intervene and save him, he will be rightfully considered a traitor to Israel. His salvation came through a protest from all the Philistine princes, who demanded that Achish expel David from the battle and send him back home. So regretfully, Achish relays the decision to David who, early in the morning, begins the long journey back to Ziklag.

We turn to chapter 30 and learn that they must travel for three days, a distance of 90 miles, before arriving at their home. David arrives to a disaster that brings him to the most despairing circumstance of his life. The Amalekites had attacked Ziklag and carried off every soul that they found. Those souls would be the wives and children of David and those of his 600 men. The raiders ransacked the town, took everything worth taking and set it on fire. “Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.”

His adventure with the Philistines brought him into a more precarious situation than ever. More than his king and tribe against him, now his own men are threatening insurrection. “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters” (30:6). It couldn’t get any worse and David is at the end of his rope. I submit that something happens in David’s soul in this crisis and he surrenders to the care of His God.

We can read that several times in David’s past, his dear friend, Jonathan, came to his side and encouraged him. I’ll just point to one occasion in 23:16: “Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God.” But Jonathan is far away fighting the Philistines in the battle that will take his life… he may already be dead. In bitter straits with no human being to turn to, David did what God’s people do in these situations, he “strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” Did he think of the bear and the lion that attacked his flock? Did he think of Goliath or the recent deliverance God gave, when he was caught in the Philistine army?

David takes another step. In spite of the extreme pressure from his men, their wives and children kidnapped, and the urgency in his own soul, David seeks out Abiathar, the priest, and the ephod. He takes time to consult God before following the Amalekite raiders (v.7). The Lord answers him and assures him of full recovery of all that was lost. It’s time to ask ourselves, if there is ever a situation in our lives that is so urgent that we have no time to pray.

Already David and his men have been on a 3-day journey and now they press on after the Amalekites. They arrive at the Brook Besor and 200 do not have strength left to cross the brook. They collapse there and cannot continue. 400 men wearily continue on and find the enemy in a drunken feast. David destroyed them “and nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them; David recovered all” (v.19). Besides he took all that belonged to the Amalekites, a tremendous amount of animals and possessions.

A principle of grace established

Click for clearer writing

After all this background, we come to the principle that parallels the lesson taught in Jesus’ parable. David came to the 200 at Besor, who had been too exhausted to continue. They come out to meet David and he greets them kindly. But as the workers “who have borne the burden and the heat of the day” and resented the 11th hour laborers, whom the vineyard owner paid a denarius and “made them equal to us”, there are those in David’s army with the same attitude.  They are likewise men with an evil eye, in fact, the Bible says that they are “wicked and worthless men”. They say, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered” (v.22)

David knows that he did not deserve to recover his wives and children. See his words to the 400: “You shall not do so with what the Lord has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us” (v.23). God sovereignly and kindly gave them what belonged to Him. Every human is a fallen sinner, who deserves nothing, but death and hell. Had David and his band received justice, he would have lost everything. The Lord was gracious to him and all his men, gave them strength to fight and win the battle. It was not due to their strength, stamina, or skill; it was all a work of God’s grace. David shares His grace with the 200 and gives them an equal share of the spoil.

David had a heart of grace and gospel understanding. He knew that God gives the victory and the glory belongs to Him. “I returned and saw under the sun that… the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong” (Ecc.9:11). That day, David established the spiritual principle, “As his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike.  So it was, from that day forward; he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day” (v.24,25). It became law in David’s government; he introduced Israel to the law of grace!

David has fully come to his senses. He had been dishonest, unfaithful and distrustful of God, yet God never abandoned him. The other point of view, the religious point of view, the legalistic point of view, belong to the evil eye, the wicked and worthless. They think that they can influence the Omniscient, showing that they are better than others and have worked enough to be worthy of His favor. They think that they deserve more. They exalt themselves and debase the sovereignty and goodness of God. Isn´t this the attitude that kept the older son from the happy feast that the father prepared for his prodigal brother? Jesus told that parable to answer the murmurings of the Pharisees and scribes in Luke 15:2-3, 11-32.

I heard an evangelical preacher, part of a nationally televised panel discussion, in which the various other “ministers”, liberals all, were discussing justice. This man said, “Oh, We don’t want justice!” The rest, including the host dropped their jaws, but He was right. We don’t want justice; we are in need of His mercy. This is the gospel attitude, this is the grace mentality. The other mentality lifts up the soul in pride, according to Habbakuk 2:4; grace humbles.

Paul teaches the grace principle throughout his epistles. Shall we let him summarize what we have learned from Jesus’ parable and the story from David’s life?: “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” Romans 4:4

Does this truth trouble you? Where do you categorize yourself? In which group do you belong? Do you question God’s right to do what He wills? One group is evil; the other is good. One group is legalistic, the other understands and accepts grace. One group is religious; the other has surrendered to the gospel. One group is among the called, but the other is the chosen (Mt.20:16).


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