Exodus 23-24 Matthew 20:1-16
“But the man who owned the vineyard said to one of those workers, ‘Friend, I am being fair to you. You agreed to work for one coin. So take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same pay that I gave you. I can do what I want with my own money. Are you jealous because I am good to those people?’” (Matthew 20:13-15 NCV)
“If I were God….” Have you ever started a sentence out with those words as you began to explain how your way of running the world would be better? When I read the story Jesus tells in today’s reading, I have to bite my tongue to keep from giving God advice. If ever a description of the kingdom of Heaven left me unsettled, or confused, it’s this one. A landowner heads to the city to get some workers. He finds a bunch, brings them back to the farm, and puts them to work. After a while, he realizes that he needs more help and goes out and gets more workers, and he keeps doing that until his last trip around 5 in the afternoon. He promised the first group a fair day’s pay. Using minimum wage, that would be between $50 and $75. Maybe the guy’s generous and it’s $100. So, it’s time to pay the workers, and the ones who got there first, are last in line! They see the owner handing out hundred-dollar bills to the last guys hired and can only anticipate that they’ll get much more, only to find out that instead, they got exactly what was promised.
Yes, I know it’s fair. I know it’s amazing generosity on the part of the land owner, but Jesus uses this as a description of the kingdom of Heaven. Think about it: a person accepts Christ at an early age and spends their life serving God. They put up with ridicule, endure hardships perhaps even persecution, and do lots of hard work. The end comes, and they enter heaven. Meanwhile, another person ignores the gospel for years, then at the age of 90 he finally listens. It makes sense and he gives his life to Christ, only to die a few days later and enter heaven. Both hear the words, “well done, you good and faithful servant.” The first person doesn’t get a bigger mansion, a higher place in heaven, or even an express pass to jump the line when they want to see Jesus. It’s not only true that life isn’t fair, neither is the afterlife. But when I realize that’s the story of God’s grace, I look at my own life, and realize I don’t really want life, or the afterlife to be fair. I want to depend on God’s grace. Thank God He isn’t fair.
Lord, every time I think I may be onto a way to improve the way You run this world, You remind me of Your plans and purposes. Thank You for grace. Thank You for being unfair to me and dealing with me far better than I deserve.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.