By what reckoning do you suppose that God owes you a salary?
The only wage that you have earned is death, now and forever, on account of your sin.
Thankfully, the Lord does not pay you the wage that you deserve. Instead, according to the grace of God, solely because He is good and He desires to be generous, He grants to you the free and full forgiveness of all your sins. And with forgiveness, He also gives you life and salvation.
The Lord reckons you righteous by His kind generosity for Jesus’ sake, and He provides for you a place in His Kingdom, before you have even begun to do any good work at all!
He surely does not “owe” you anything. The Lord your God is not obliged to you, nor is He in your debt. But He gives you everything by grace.
You live in His Vineyard by His grace, through faith in His Gospel.
Here, then, is the fruitful life to which He brings you in peace: He calls you to share in His Life and His Love, and He sends you to live in love within your own place. Not because He needs your help, but because He loves you, and He delights to perfect the good work He has begun in you.
You thus share His life by way of discipleship and your Christian vocation. Which is to say that you follow after Christ Jesus, and, in His Name and at His Word, you serve your neighbor in the place where the Lord has positioned you. There you pursue the labor of faith and love, and in this way you offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, which is the only thing you can give to God.
Before you ever begin to work or serve on behalf of others, you are first of all served by the Ministry and work of the Gospel, which is the Lord’s ongoing care of His own blessed Vineyard. For He has hired others before you to work and serve on your behalf, that you might live with Him in His Kingdom in the righteousness of faith.
And then it also happens, within your own particular office and station in life, wherever you are called to be, that you care for that portion of the Vineyard, be it big or little. Not for any wages earned, but in thanksgiving and at the Lord’s Word. For love’s sake, you bear the Cross of Christ, the true Vine, for your neighbor; and you do so in the confidence of the Lord’s promise to you, for He is faithful and just, and He will do what He has spoken.
Although you exercise whatever wisdom, reason, strength, and talents the Lord has given you, and whatever resources He entrusts to your stewardship, you are not on your own to fend for yourself, to sink or swim by your own ingenuity and effort.
You are called to work and sweat, to bear the Cross, and to serve your neighbor in this world. But you are sustained in that labor, in holy faith and Christian love, by what the Lord has done for you, and by what He continues to do and say and give to you by His grace and mercy.
It’s not “cheap grace,” as they say. Not at all! For Christ the Lord has borne the whole burden and the full heat of the day on your behalf. Through the long dark night of His Passion; in the early morning hours at the rooster’s crow; at the third hour before Pilate, at the sixth hour on the Cross, and at the ninth hour when He cried out with a loud voice to bestow His Spirit; even to the final hour of the day, when He was laid to rest in the tomb — He has worked for you, in order to grant you His Peace and Rest. As one of our shut-ins said it so well this past week, Jesus did the job!
He suffered the wages of your sin by His death, and He bore the good fruits of faith and love by His own hard labor, by His dreadful agony and bloody sweat. All of this He does for the purpose of granting to you His own inheritance as the Son of God, as well as the righteousness, life, and salvation of His steadfast faith and perfect love.
Thus has He done and accomplished, for you and for all, throughout the long brutal day and the harsh punishing hours of His Passion, even unto death upon the Cross.
But that is not the end of the story. For He continues to care for His vineyard, to give it life and sustain it, by those whom He sends in His Name to preach and administer the Gospel of His Cross.
According to His tender mercy, by His good and gracious will for you and your salvation, He provides for all your needs, and far more than you need in this body and life, and all the more so for your resurrection from the dead and your life everlasting in Him, in both body and soul.
It is for this reason, in Christ and for His sake, that your life, also, in the body, has meaning and purpose, significance, and value.
Do not suppose that the finished work of Christ has made the work He gives you to do pointless. The fact that your forgiveness and salvation are by grace and not according to your merit does not cheapen but sanctifies your calling to cultivate and care for the Lord’s Vineyard.
The Kingdom of Heaven, which is the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus, is not like the politics or economics of this world.
What you do in the Lord’s Name, according to His Word, is valuable and precious; not because you are earning a wage or making a profit; and whether or not you are productive and successful in the eyes of the world; but because you are the Lord’s and the Vineyard is His.
Consider the price that Christ has paid for you, in order to atone for all your sins, and to redeem you in body and soul from sin, death, the devil, and hell, for life with Himself. So, too, rejoice in the good work and fruitful labor that Christ performs and accomplishes in you, and through you, as well, for the blessing and benefit of your neighbor, and for the care of His Church on earth, that is, for His royal Vineyard. You already know that your labors are not in vain, because Christ is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity.
Go about your work, therefore, whatever it may be — big or small, much or little, for many years, or only for a short while — in the confidence of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus.
Resist the temptation to compare and contrast, and to compete with others. You and your place and your “pay” are not measured by your neighbor, but by your Lord. Focus on His Word to you, and on the promise that He spoke to you when He called you by His Name to be His own.
According to His Word, do your job and perform your duties faithfully. Not as though to “earn” what has already been given and promised, but in thanksgiving, peace, and hope, in faith and love.
Your labors will be rewarded, have no fear, for they are pleasing to the Lord, as you are pleasing to Him in the righteousness of Christ. Not the death you deserve, but the life and wages that He has promised in His goodness and generosity, these shall be yours at the end of the day and always.
Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ has pledged Himself to you, with all His gifts and benefits. By His Incarnation, by His Cross and Resurrection, He has made you equal — not only to the Prophets and Apostles, who labored long and hard before you — but equal to Himself: He has named you with His Name, anointed you with His Spirit, and made you a child of His own God and Father.
By virtue of your Baptism, you are a son of God in Christ, and, as such, you are an heir of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Beloved of the Lord, He does you no wrong, but He gives you every good thing. Don’t worry. You shall not be short-changed. See here, how He presses into your hand the sovereign Coin of His Realm — a Denarius for the neverending Eighth Day — His own holy Body, given for you, and His holy, precious Blood, poured out for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.
With such treasures, freely given to you by the Lord, you lack nothing at all. For life and salvation with the true and only God are yours in Christ Jesus, that you may live with Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.