Matthew 20:1-16
Mutual Aid From The Faith

Authored By Rev. Chen Tientsu, Taiwan Presbyterian Church, then on mission at Osaka Nozomi Church, Osaka, Japan

1.  In Chinese there's a saying, "Same Boat, Same Buddies, Same Benefits."  It means those who are in the same group are to join their strength together to help each other.

2.  Heaven is compared in a parable to a certain owner of a vineyard.  The vineyard owner went out for several hours at a time from early morning at six till evening in order to hire workers.  When evening came, the owner handed over to the persons he hired last their wages of one denarius each.  Then the men who he had hired first complained of the owner's unfairness in that even though there was a difference in the hours that they had worked their wages were the same.  But, the owner answered each one of them as follows, "Friends, I have not done you wrong.  Didn't you make an agreement with me of one denarius?  Please take your share and go back home.  I want to pay these last people the same as you.  Can't I do what I want with my own things?  Or are you jealous over the goodness of my generosity?," (Matthew 20:13-15).

3.  Everyone ought to know this story pretty good.  Who is the main character in this story?  Who are the hired people?

4.  As you know, the gospel of the kingdom of God is testified to through this story.  Jesus is emphasizing that heaven is like with the vineyard owner and that God is present among us.  How is God here with humanity?

5.  First, we see that God gives mutual help to people.  The meaning of "mutual help," as I explained just before, means that they are united, help one another in give and take relationships, and are a community of souls.

6.  God wishes that we are never left alone or destitute.  The vineyard owner went off to hire people from morning to evening.  He issued wages equally regardless of their time.  Here God is showing us that we are to assist each other as if we were all riding on the same boat, and at the same time God is pointing out to us that God comes down from heaven to help us and is with us.

7.  When a typical employer hires someone he will entrust it to a subordinate.  We don't expect him to need to go out on his own.  But, the vineyard owner himself went out.  This story is showing that the master will participate in [things] himself and not depend on someone else.  In The Gospel Of John, it is written that "The Word became flesh," (John 1:14).  It is one of the expressions that relates that God is present among humanity.

8.  And humanity may use human political means but God uses the means of the kingdom of God.  According to the general idea of a free economy, it is hard to understand giving the same wages for different work times.  But, the owner responded to the protests of the people with "Friends, I have not done you wrong.  Didn't you make an agreement with me of one denarius?"  Jesus was wanting to break apart the economic notion of  a person's "receiving the same wages for the same hours of work."

9.  Jesus built a fair system in an unfair social system.  It was a system that gave equal treatment to people during whatever hard times [may have befallen them].  As every one also knows, an unjust economy, culture, and education have a bad influence on human values.  It causes a problem for young people besides.  In the parable of the vineyard, we have a principle filled with love in which God gives equal treatment to people.

10.  God gives consideration to the impartiality of the economics, the culture, the politics, and the education of humanity.  But, how does the kingdom of God through the church relate to this world?  The church is supposed to be the best model of an association of mutual assistance in this world.  Big rich churches are expected to bear a responsibility for small churches and for parachurch type organizations.  What kind of church are we if our brothers and sisters in the faith and our fellow churches don't care for each other?  If we don't have a community consciousness, how should we witness to the love of the cross of Christ?  Will a church grow that doesn't have a mind for mutual assistance?  We would expect that nothing would be left in the flow of time, but rather that it would be under the condemnation of God.

11.  A christian is supposed to love someone no matter how weak he or she is.  Even if they have the least of abilities in things, they are forgiving of one another and lend a hand to one another.  Many people think the reason people become homeless is they are lazy and look down on them.  Actually, the reason is [more like] they can't help it, they are sick.  Many of the homeless are disabled mentally and physically.  (If you look at the statistics for the homeless in the town of Kotobuki, then about 2,160 out of 6,500* people are disabled mentally or physically.)  Why has [this] happened to this kind of group?  Because they are not welcomed by people with homes and not allowed in by society or people of an area, but are driven off.  It is because no one has a spirit of mutual assistance.  No one has a heart for suffering together or sharing together.

12.  This is the culture of capitalism, the free economy, the political form that people today have built.  As an effect of capitalism, it is the shape of the way things really are in which the weak are the sacrifice for the capitalists.

13.  The God we trust is a God who takes part in this world.  He is a God who thinks we should reform the injustices of this world's system.  Thus, God has chosen us so that the love of God might fill this world.  The church is supposed to take part in this world with a faith such that "The Word became flesh."

14.  Don't we at times run from our responsibilities toward society in claiming we are a holy group?  The church knows God's love deeply, but if it doesn't have a completely obedient faith life unto God, I don't think the church is able to put into practice God's love and impartiality in this world.

15.  When earthquakes a year ago engulfed Taiwan, it received financial assistance from countries all over the world.  The Taiwanese also showed a heart of "Same Boat, Same Buddies, Same Benefits."  The love from the faith of the churches of Taiwan produced a can-do spirit.

16.  One certain Taiwanese church offered on behalf of the quake [an amount of] money that was equivalent to four hundred million Japanese yen.**  The church has not rested one day since after the earthquake to this day, and while it has been offering continuous assistance, it has sent volunteers to restore hearts and additionally it has established plans for continual care for five and ten years.

17.  The church is a model that fulfills the kingdom of God.  In addition, it is a [military] base* in order to develop it worldwide.  If there are no works and no kingdom of God mentality of "Same Boat, Same Buddies, Same Benefits" in the church, then what kind of witness will the gospel of the kingdom of God have?

18.  Does the church really practice "Same Boat, Same Buddies, Same Benefits?"  Or is the church no more than being in the same bed but having different dreams, that is, everyone acts like they care outwardly, but inwardly they are doing their own things?  I wish so much that in overcoming all things by the love of God, we will want to put this truth of sharing into practice when it comes to people and God, one person and another, and mother nature.

End Notes

*One third of 6,500.

**Nearly four million U.S. dollars.

***The word "military" is not in the text and may go against the spirit of this message, but the idea is that it is a place based in an area and set apart like a military base with a focused mission.  The church is to be a work station of love and sharing in the world so as to advance the kingdom of God.

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