The True Cost of Discipleship, Trust Jesus

Richman The parable of the workers in the vineyard is actually the conclusion of a longer section of the Gospel of Matthew (19:16-20:16) which begins with Jesus’ encounter with a rich young man (19:16-22; see also Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23). The narrative insists that, in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, one must first give up everything (including riches) and to trust exclusively in God. Matthew’s Jewish-Christian audience was interested in knowing the relationship between Jesus and the Torah (the Jewish law). The rich young man is portrayed as a pious Jew who is faithful in his observance of the Jewish law and yet feels that something is missing. Jesus’ invitation, however, is not what the young man expects. It is obviously too much for him to accept. Jesus indicates that Christian discipleship goes beyond the observance of the Torah. Giving up wealth and an attachment to earthly goods is a condition for becoming “perfect” – which in this case does not mean “innocent” or “sinless” but rather “whole,” “undivided” or “mature.” All who strive to enter the Kingdom of God have to choose between God and whatever might compete with God for their attention – including wealth, power and success. The rich young man was not expecting an invitation to give up his wealth, and so he turned away from Jesus and the Kingdom of God. In contrast, Matthew the Publican – who was viewed as a sinner and could hardly have expected an invitation to be a disciple – gave up his wealth and his job in order to follow Jesus (Matthew 9:9). After the story of the rich young man, the Gospel of Matthew presents a conversation on wealth (19:23-30), which can be a major obstacle in our search for God. This conversation includes a statement and a question from Peter: “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” (19:27). Peter affirms that the disciples have given up possessions to follow Jesus. Will there be a reward for their faithful discipleship? Jesus responds that there will be a reward, although perhaps not one they were expecting. That reward is to be given in the “new age” (19:28). God’s reward for faithful discipleship may not be apparent in this world, but it will certainly be apparent in the next.

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