Isaiah 55:1-9

Luke 13:1-9

“Will You Get What You’ve Paid For?”

Lent 3 March 24 2019

            We are now 3 weeks into our journey through the season of Lent. Lent is an important season for us as we focus on Christ, what His death and resurrection mean for us,  and how we can become better disciples of the One who callus us to follow Him in love and service.  

            Today we are going to look at a basic question that we all have to answer, that question being are we going to try to get what our actions have “paid for” from God, or “get what we deserve” from God, or will we accept the free gift of salvation that Christ has paid for us and offers us?

We’ve all heard the expression “you get what you pay for”, haven’t we? I remember when I became the proud owner of my first laptop computer. I handed desktop computers but this was my first laptop. It was a refurbished one that I purchased at a “Tent Sale”  that specialized in selling computers at a much reduced price, but I thought it was a great deal.  At least I thought that until a few weeks later it began running slow and I discovered it had not been as refurbished as advertised! When tried to take it back to the folks who sold it to me, the tent was gone.  There was no one to return it to, and no one to talk to about it.  I was stuck with a dud computer, and had learned the har way, once again, that you get what you pay for!

            Most of you probably have stories to tell of how you’ve learned that lesson! When you buy something at a “special deal”, but it turns out to be not so special,  someone might say “Well,  you got what you paid for!” Most of the time that is a pretty true statement.

But not always.

Our Old Testament lesson for today is an exception to that rule.  It may be true most of the time that you get what you pay for, and yet here’s an offer that is for free.  Now  we all know that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and yet here is Isaiah giving us an image of God as a street merchant hawking wine and milk that is free, wine and milk that has no price but that is free for the taking. If someone were to offer us wine and milk that is free, we just might be skeptical.  “What’s wrong with it?”  we might ask. “Has the wine soured?” “Does it taste like vinegar?” “Has the milk curdled”?

There is no such thing as a free lunch and you get what you pay for. And yet here is God offering the very best,  and offering it for free.  In fact, God says that what we are working for, what we might be able to pay for, will never satisfy us.  Only what God offers for free will satisfy us.  It makes no sense at all. It goes against our better judgment. We know we get what we pay for, don’t we? And yet this is God’s offer!

            Our Gospel lesson deals with this, also. Tell us, Jesus, about those Galileans Pilate killed while they were worshipping in the Temple and mixed their own blood with the blood of their sacrifices?   What were they “paying” for? What are their deaths and the defiling of the sacrifices payment for? Well, Luke has Jesus saying, in no uncertain terms, that these Galileans, and the people in Jerusalem who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them, were not paying for any specific wrongs that they had done. In other words, tragedies are not paybacks for things that have been done. 

And Isaiah does have God offering the very best for free, and even saying that what we can pay for will never truly satisfy us.

            So here’s a question. When it comes to the things of God, will you get what you’ve paid for? Friends, I hope not. I truly hope not. I hope that in God’s eyes I will never get what I’ve paid for. I hope that in God’s eyes you will never get what you’ve paid for. I hope in God’s eyes none of us get what we’ve paid for.

            Take a look at the parable in our Gospel passage for today. A landowner tours his vineyard, and notices a fig tree not producing fruit. The tree has not produced in years.

Wouldn’t it be prudent to cut it down and maybe plant another tree that will bear fruit? It doesn’t take a degree in horticulture to figure that one out. It has not borne fruit,  it has not “paid” for being in the vineyard so to speak, so it should not stay there. But when the  landowner orders it cut, the gardener begs for more time. “Let me dig around it and put manure around it another year —” he proposes, and so it seems that a deal is struck. But if after another year it is still unproductive and unfruitful, it will be cut down.  And it will only be getting what it paid for. It paid nothing, so it will get nothing.

            Friends, I don’t believe Jesus is just telling a story of a benevolent gardener persuading a landowner to give a tree another chance. I believe we have before us a story that is much more here than that. .

            Will you get what you’ve paid for? The fig tree certainly didn’t! Neither, according to Jesus, did the Galileans or those at Siloam. Neither would those God addressed through Isaiah if they accepted what God offered.

            Will you? Will I? Again, I certainly hope and pray not. If we did get what we paid for, in God’s eyes, what would that be? What do you think we deserve to get from God? Based on how we live, what are we paying for and what will we deserve to get from God?

            Maybe death. Maybe condemnation to hell.

            There’s honestly no “maybe” about it, is there? We are like that fig tree. Too many times we don’t bear fruit and deserve to be cut down and thrown into the fire. That’s what we’ve paid for. That is what we deserve to get. But if the Gardener and Landowner are gracious to the tree, how much more gracious will God be to us?

            Yes, praise God, God is gracious. God knows that what we’ve paid for is not what God wants us to have, and offers us something better.  God offers us a chance at salvation.

God offers us a chance to bear fruit. God offers us a chance to accept God’s grace and love.

            So how do you have this chance, this salvation that God offers? Do you get it because of something you  have done, or “paid for” or deserve? No, friends, you don’t get this chance, this salvation, because of what you’ve paid for or what you deserve or you’ve done.  You get salvation because of what Christ paid for you. Christ’s death on the cross was the price for your sins. Christ’s death on the cross makes it possible for you to have, not what you’ve paid for , but what He paid for you. 

            So will you get what you’ve paid for or will you get what Christ has paid for you?

            During Lent we think about Christ’s death for us and how we live in response to it. 

            So what will it be? Will you get what you’ve paid for? Or will you accept what Christ has paid for you? Will you continue with what Isaiah says will never satisfy or will you accept what is the only thing that can satisfy?  Will you accept God’s offer of grace and love and salvation or not? If not you’ll only get what you’ve paid for. But if you repent, if you come to God and accept salvation,  if you let God change you and begin “bearing fruit”, if you begin truly living in God’s ways, you’ll get the salvation Christ paid for you.

            The choice is yours.

            Think about it.

            I pray you will repent and let God change you. If you do you’ll get the salvation and eternal life Christ has paid for you. If not you’ll only get the sin and hell you have paid for.

            The opportunity to repent and bear fruit is before you.  Christ offers you the opportunity to turn from your sinful ways,  to repent, and to bear fruit for Him in this life, while receiving salvation for the life to come.

            Don’t miss the chance for salvation. Remember that the tree in the Parable in our passage for today did not have but a year to begin bearing fruit. You don’t have forever to decide to accept God’s offer and accept, not what you’ve paid for,  but what Christ has paid for you. No one knows how much time they have to make that decision. You don’t know how much more time you have to make that decision.

            So what will it be?

            Will you repent?

            Will you accept what Christ has paid for you?

            Or will you get what you’ve paid for?

            Which will it be? Amen