Bible Study

Bible Study: Proper 20 (A) – 2011

September 18, 2011

Jonah 3:10-4:11

When Jonah prayed to God from the belly of the great fish he said, “Deliverance belongs to the Lord!” But now Jonah has forgotten that lesson. Jonah thinks it is his right to judge the people of Ninevah, and to demand their punishment. Then when God changes his mind about destroying the city, Jonah judges God. God’s question to Jonah — God’s question to all of us — is, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah’s judgment is based on his own concerns. God reminds Jonah that God is the source of all, not Jonah, and God’s love embraces all.

  • Have you ever thought that someone or some group of people should be punished or should suffer? On what did you base your judgment?

Psalm 145:1-8

The psalm expresses our feelings when we center ourselves on God and on God’s marvelous works. Then, instead of being angry or wanting people to suffer, our hearts singe praise to the Lord who is ‘gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great kindness.’

Philippians 1:21-30

Paul invites his audience to live their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. What does this mean to you?

  • If you lived in this way, would you base your judgments differently, perhaps on love instead of anger? Do you think your judgments might change?

Matthew 20:1-16

Many of us hear this parable and immediately go for the punch line — the Kingdom of Heaven is where the last will be first. Let’s consider that, as well as being good news for the last, this is also an opportunity for the first. In the parable, those who worked all day must watch those who barely worked at all get paid the same wages as they are to get. Their reaction is to put themselves at the center, to expect more, and to judge the landowner harshly when they don’t get it. They are rebuked for their reaction.

Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven is not only where the expected order of things is turned upside down. Perhaps it is also where God challenges us with God’s radical love, and gives us the opportunity to turn away from our tendency to be selfish and judgmental. Instead we can move deeper into our relationship with God as we live a God-centered life of generosity and forgiveness.

  • If you find yourself in a situation that makes you angry or judgmental this week, might you think of it as an opportunity to live in a manner “worthy of the gospel of Christ”? What might you do differently as a result? How might that change your relationship with God?

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Christopher Sikkema


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