By the time we finish kindergarten, we have a
pretty good notion that life is not fair. Even so, we want life to be fair and
we even expect it to be fair. When it isn’t some of us can get pretty
Jesus gave us a parable about fairness in Matthew
20:1-16. He said:
1 “For the kingdom
of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers
for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and
sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others
standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also
go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5
So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the
same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found
still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here
all day long doing nothing?’
7 ” ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and
work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his
supervisor, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last
ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came
and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired
first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.
11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the
landowner. 12 ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’
they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the
work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair
to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay
and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15
Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious
because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be
A denarius was pretty good money for a day’s work,
about the same as the pay of a Roman soldier. Being a Roman soldier was not the
most prestigious job, but it was higher up the social ladder than the common
vineyard worker. So the workers eagerly accepted the job. But they were not
happy that others got the same pay for far less work.
Jesus wasn’t giving us a civics lesson. He was
telling us about how grace works in the kingdom of God. It doesn’t matter how
good we’ve been compared to how good someone else has been. It doesn’t matter
how sinful we’ve been compared to how sinful someone else has been. Salvation
simply isn’t tied to anything but the riches of God’s love and grace.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9
not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Regardless of the relative pain or ease of our
life’s journey, salvation comes only by grace and not by what we do. Like any
gift, the only thing we can do with grace is have a little faith. In other
words, trust the Giver and accept and embrace the gift.
With God, we don’t get what we deserve. We get
everything we don’t deserve—his unfailing love and a new life in Jesus Christ.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.