Poison of the Sidelong Glance
Preached on November 13, 2011
Matthew 20:1-16 ESV "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. (2) After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. (3) And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, (4) and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' (5) So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. (6) 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?' (7) They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' (8) 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.' (9) 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?' (16) So the last will be first, and the first last."
Lest I be guilty of plagiarism, I want to give credit to Ben Merkle for this direction of this sermon. I heard a sermon with this same title and it impacted me and I wanted it to impact you but through my voice and heart and mind. So here goes. What is good here is probably from him through the grace of God and the work of the Spirit.
Lets read the story. Matthew 20:1-16
Summary of the story
We have a vineyard owner who hires laborers at the beginning of the day with the contract of 1 denarius.
At the 3rd, 6th, 9th and 11th hour he hired more laborers with the contract that he would pay them what was right.
(Note: the hours probably relate to daylight hours)
At the end of the day he gathers the laborers to pay them and he pays them in order of last to first.
He pays the late-comers one denarius leading the original laborers to assume that they would get more than their agreed contract – one denarius.
When they receive one denarius they grumbled and complained to the master of the vineyard, comparing their hard work to the work of the others.
The master asks how he is doing them wrong and why they are begrudging his generosity to others.
In this story we see the poison of the sidelong glance.
The Sidelong Glance:
The essence of the sidelong glance is this: when we prefer to evaluate our circumstances relatively (to those around us) rather than objectively (with respect to God).
The sidelong glance looks at circumstances from the horizontal perspective rather than the vertical.
It’s relative in that it looks to what others have rather than what is truly right and good.
The grumblers in the Matthew 20 story do just this – they look to others and evaluate their circumstances based on that.
The sidelong glance is often manifested with words like why not me? Or that’s not fair?
It is usually focused on a surface-level sense of justice. It is not right that she should get that treatment.
The sidelong glance can be illustrated like this. I like Chipotle Mexican grill. When I get my chicken fajita burrito I am hungry and I want it as big as possible. I am happy with the chicken they put on the sandwich until I see the person after me getting a bigger scoop. I was not treated unfairly, but the sidelong glance produces ENVY.
Yes, envy is another way (a biblical word) to talk about what the sidelong glance can often produce in our hearts.
My kids are happy with the cookie they get until they see their brother getting a bigger cookie with more chocolate chips in it.
Examples in Life:
The temptations of envy in the sidelong glance are everywhere.
It might be your work. My job is unfair. I am underpaid. I am made aware of this when I find out what others are getting paid.
I am undervalued and work because others get more attention and praise.
Spouses: If only my husband would lead like other men in the church; if only my wife would take care of me like she does for him.
Children: My friends get to go to Disney land and we have constant stacations. – Its not fair.
Parents: If only my kids could be like their kids. If only they had kids like mine.
It’s not fair that they have new cars, a big new house. I work so hard.
My work ethic is so much better but they always get the breaks.
I am a better leader than he is but he gets to lead the group.
That other church has this, why can’t we have it.
We are tempted differently. I don’t covet Aaron Rodgers job and pay but I can be tempted to envy another pastor or Christian leader who gets more attention and better pay.
What about you?
It Is a Poison
Proverbs 14:30 ESV A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.
The sidelong glance (leading to envy) is a terrible poison. Here are some ways:
1. It is petty and therefore deceptive.
Envy in this way can seem so petty in our lives. Things that we look at and envy in our heart seem so small that we don’t name it as a sin and deal with it. We see something we envy in another person and it just lodges in our heart under the radar.
2. It grows into increasing toxicity.
Because it is small and we don’t deal with it, it grows. It adds up and builds an increasing toxicity in our soul, in our attitudes and in our ways of seeing circumstances and people.
3. It gives us tunnel vision – seeing the most negative comparisons.
The sidelong glance can lead us to a horrible tunnel vision in which we narrowly look at others circumstances in the most negative ways. We ignore any comparison that could encourage or convict us (i. e. – Look how good I have it; God has surely blessed me/us) and we see the one percent that seems to us unfair or unjust.
4. It leads to discontentment and ingratitude to God.
All of this rips away a contentment in our lives. We are not satisfied with God and all that He promises to be for us in Jesus and instead we are focused on all the injustices of our life. Instead of giving thanks in all things with a joy and hope in God we focus on what we don’t have and we actually think that we are being robbed in some way.
5. It damages relationships.
The sidelong glance that breeds envy is a relationship wreaker. Petty grievances turn into a horrid toxicity in relationships. Sadly we get divided from people not because they sinned against us but because we are coveting or we are envious.
Have you had people in your life that you can’t put your finger on but you are annoyed by them? You might say – “They just annoy me.” “They are just proud or vain.”
Often time envy is at work and the poison has slowly done its work.
Church relationships can go cold when over time you are close with people.
How should we fight against the sidelong glance?
1. Confess envy with brutal honesty.
We need to see it and name it in our lives. This takes a willingness to do true introspection on our own hearts. So often we don’t see it and we need to ask God by His Spirit to reveal where the poison of envy is lodging itself in our lives.
Where do you say to yourself – “its not fair?” If you don’t have a Bible verse that promises you that right you need to repent of envy.
2. Gaze Upwardly
The way to overcome the sidelong glance is the Godward Gaze! We must look to God and meditate on who God is.
Ponder the amazing reality of God’s infinitude.
God is never exhausted in his attention and care for us.
Romans 8:28 – He works all things for our good.
“Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” – Psalm 34
There is never a time in which he is not giving us what we need.
3. Hope in the Resurrection
What I mean here is that we are not at the place of reward.
The first will be last and the last will be first.
Now is not the time when God says everything will be settled. Unfairness on a horizontal level may be a reality but God says – I give you the hand of cards you have and you need to be faithful with them.
There will come a day when reward comes and it is not yet. It may seem unfair that attention is not given to you. Trust God and look to Him. Things will be settled some day.
4. Remember the Gospel of Grace
How are we doing? Better than we deserve. More than that—lavished with God’s grace.
We must not forget the Gospel of free grace. We are saved not because we earned salvation. We are saved by grace and we deserve hell but receive mercy.
Grace is grace! We have it and we need to rejoice in that mercy.