One of the most fascinating stories ever told among engineers is about a transaction between Henry Ford and Charles Steinmetz. Steinmetz was a brilliant engineer born in Germany and escaped to the United States in 1888. General Electric discovered his talent and recruited him.
He was only four feet tall due to deformity, but people called him the “Little Giant” because of his outstanding inventions and scientific contributions to electrical engineering. He could listen to the sound of a complex machine and pinpoint the malfunctioning part. The story goes like this:
Henry Ford’s automobile manufacturing plant in Dearborn, Michigan, had a problem with its gigantic generator, but its engineers couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. Henry Ford reached out to Charles Steinmetz at GE for help. Steinmetz came and asked for a notepad, a pen, and a cot to sleep on. He listened to the generator for two days and nights and scribbled computations on the notepad.
On the second night, he asked for a ladder, climbed up, made a chalk mark, and left a note asking the engineers to open the plate at the mark and replace sixteen windings from the field coil. They did, and the generator performed to perfection.
Henry Ford was thrilled because his factory could resume production and stop losing money. However, he was stunned when he received an invoice from GE for $10,000. You know, $10,000 in the early 1900s is a significant amount. I checked it out and found it could equal $500,000.
How could a simple chalk mark on the machine cost so much money? Ford admired Steinmetz’s talent but balked at the figure. He asked for an itemized bill.
Steinmetz itemized the bill the following:
Making chalk mark on generator: $1.
Knowing where to make the mark: $9,999.
Ford looked at it and paid the bill. (End of the story.)
Even though $10,000 was significant, it’s nothing compared to the loss each day the factory was not running.
Would it be nice if someone could put the chalk mark in this broken world and show us exactly one thing we need to fix to restore a harmonious world? How about our own life? Would it be nice if someone could put a chalk mark on our life to show us one simple change we can make to make our life run smoothly?
The good news is that Jesus has put a chalk mark on our lives and shown us one thing we must change to find inner peace and joy, living in this fallen world. It’s a very simple change, but it may not be easy. Simple doesn’t mean easy, but it’s always good to know that we don’t have to make a complicated effort to find peace and joy.
Today, we will explore Jesus’ teaching of the top secret to inner peace and joy based on this week’s scripture lesson and discover how to live in heaven on earth. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Matthew 20:1-16. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’
8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.
11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 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 the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Mt 20:1–16).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
With this parable, Jesus wants us to know what the kingdom of heaven is like so that we can check if we can fit in. Otherwise, you might go to heaven but won’t enjoy it there. According to C.S. Lewis, hell is where some people freely choose to go because they find heaven doesn’t serve their interests.
In hell, they can enjoy competition, ego trip, and self-importance. In hell, people are rewarded for their merit. For the self-serving, heaven is unfair, unjust, and unsavory. Jesus warns us ahead of time to let us know that the kingdom of heaven could be upside down from human expectation: “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Surprised?
This parable is called “The Parable of the Laborers in the Vinyard.” The vineyard represents heaven, the Landlord is God, and the laborers are us. It’s another parable about what the kingdom of heaven is like,
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.” (Mt 20:1).
Based on this and other kingdom parables, Jesus reveals that the key to the kingdom is “Grace.”
The kingdom of heaven runs on grace, not justice. Does that surprise you? Many people wait for the kingdom to come so that justice will be done. They want God to send their enemies to burn in hell at the final judgment, and they want God to reward them according to their merit. To their disappointment, the kingdom does not run on merit but grace. Remember, the key to the kingdom is “Grace.”
Let’s look at the context of this passage to understand why Jesus told them this parable.
It began with the rich young ruler who came to ask Jesus how he could enter the kingdom. Jesus told him to practice the Ten Commandments. He said, “I have already done that. What am I lacking?” Jesus said, “Sell your possessions, give away to the poor, and follow me.” The young man went away grieving because he had many possessions—he had too much to lose. After he left, Jesus said to the disciples,
“Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mt 19:23–24).
Notice Jesus was cracking a joke using Hebrew humor, exaggerating the difficulty by comparing a camel going through the eye of a needle. I am sure the disciples were laughing their heads off at Jesus’ incredibly creative figure of speech. Then they asked if a wealthy, intelligent, and powerful man like that young man cannot enter heaven, who can?
But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Mt 19:26).
It implies this young man will enter the kingdom not because of his wealth, education, or merit, as most people think, but because of God’s grace. God’s grace makes the impossible possible.
Then, Peter seemed jealous when he realized that that rich young man would enter the kingdom of heaven through grace without following Jesus’ instruction to sell his possessions and follow him.
Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” (Mt 19:27).
We know Peter had a big mouth; he talked his mind. There is a tone of grievance. If someone like that young man who sacrificed nothing would get to heaven for free, what do I get? I deserve more, or it would be unfair, unjust, and unsavory! He sounded like the big brother of the Prodigal Son. Jesus said,
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first. (Mt 19:29–30).
Jesus assured them that none of them had sacrificed in vain. But, the kingdom does not practice the “first come, first served” policy. They will be gnereously rewarded, but not due to their merit.
The key to the kingdom is? Grace! Grace means every believer will receive the blessings, but not according to their seniority, intelligence, or merit—as Peter’s question implied.
In order to help them understand this truth, Jesus told them the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. The landowner hired some people to work in his vineyard in the morning, offering them the usual daily wage: one denarius. When he went out at about nine o’clock, he saw others waiting to get hired, and he hired them. He did the same at noon and then at about three o’clock. He kept going out every couple of hours.
And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ (Mt 20:6-7).
I am sure these laborers must be very grateful to finally get hired after waiting for almost the whole day. They almost went home empty handed.
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.” (Mt 20:8-9).
It seems Jesus wanted to make the point by having the manager pay the laborers in reversed order. Those who came last got paid first.
Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. (Mt 20:10).
This verse is addressed directly to Peter’s question, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” (Mt 19:27). The answer is that you will receive precisely according to God’s grace—nothing more and nothing less.
In fact, God’s grace is more than abundant. But if you compare yourself with others, you would think you deserve more because you have served more.
And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 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.’ (Mt 20:11-12).
I am sure those are originally a group of grateful people for getting hired early and securing their income for the day. But the moment they saw the latecomers treated equally, they forgot their privilege and shifted their focus to entitlement. But the kingdom doesn’t function that way. The landlord said,
Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ (Mt 20:15).
The word “envious” is translated from the Greek idiom, literally “evil eye,” meaning jealousy, stinginess, envy, and greed. We can translate, “Have your eyes turned evil because I am generous?”
This verse reveals that their initial peace and joy for employment disappear the moment their eyes turn evil. Evil in Hebrew tradition means being on the other side. Their gratitude turns into grudges. They focus on injustice instead of grace. The gracious boss becomes their enemy.
They lost their key to the kingdom. If you want to maintain inner peace and joy, hold on to grace. Since grace is the key to the kingdom, use that to open every door when you feel locked out. For the closing, I want to introduce the three steps to use grace as the key to open the door to inner peace and joy.
1) Remember God’s Grace
After this parable, Jesus talked about his death and resurrection for the third time. Always remember the grace we received through his death and resurrection. Knowing your sins are forgiven, past and future, you will find inner peace and joy through a state of gratitude. The Bible says, “From Jesus, we receive grace upon grace.” Remember what he has done for you on the cross.
2) See Everything Through Grace
When you see someone enjoying their life and success on social media or elsewhere, don’t let your eyes turn evil. Instead, praise God for God’s generosity to them. Celebrate with them. Don’t forget the grace you receive from the Lord is more than sufficient. Don’t judge God’s generosity to others as unfair, unjust, and unsavory. Don’t be a sore loser. God loves you no less. See everything through grace.
3) Treat Everyone with Grace
When you remember God’s grace and see things through grace, you will be able to treat everyone with grace. We live in a fallen world and must deal with fallen people. When you are stuck not knowing how to handle a fallen human, take out your key to the kingdom, grace, and you will discover the best solution. I know it’s simple but not easy. Grace is free but not cheap. Just remember the greater grace you have received from Jesus Christ.
Let’s experience heaven on earth through grace. That’s the chalk mark Jesus showed us. That’s where we must fix. Let’s fix it, so our lives will run smoothly, and eventually, the world will run smoothly as it was created to be.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.