Have you ever felt like you’ve been treated unfairly?
Oh, so many times. When I worked I felt I wasn’t compensated enough for the work I did. And I definitely deserved to have more vacation time. As a full-time mom, now I find it unfair that I don’t have the same kind of freedom I once had. I deserve more me time and I really should get paid for this. It’s also not fair that other moms are able to get their hair done all the time, have more help and can afford a Starbucks every morning.
Growing up it was unfair to me that I wasn’t able to go do the same things my older sisters got to do. Even at the tender age of 3 and 4 we can have an acute need for fairness. Mom, jimmy has more marshmallows in his hot chocolate then me!
When we are little it’s petty, and when we get older we call it unjust.
Our inner desire for fairness is confused for justice. But justice is not the problem. The problem is me and my desire to please me. And most of my idea’s of unfairness are the result of envying those around me who look to have more or have it better.
Jesus gives us a parable about this very thing called the Laborers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16. Read it.
This parable is the perfect response to Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27. Peter had just witnessed the rich young ruler basically deny Christ because of the ruler’s attachment to his own money. This made Peter curious, so he asks…“See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”
Surely everything the disciples rejected to follow Christ would garner extra special standing and blessing. Jesus assures Peter and the disciples of their stature in heaven, but then he gives a stern warning (Matt 19:30), But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Then he launch’s into the above parable as a lesson for us all.
The early laborers agreed on the days payment, and then went to work. More workers joined and then even more later in the day. When the day was done and it was time to be paid, everyone received the same amount of money. The early laborers who worked the longest with sweat on there brow started grumbling.
This is not fair. Wouldn’t you assume that your master was kind of being a jerk and a cheap skate? Wouldn’t you grumble and complain and maybe even confront the guy with a fool-proof argument about labor laws and rights? Then maybe you would form a union? And then who knows, maybe you would strike?
Culturally, this scripture kinda hurts a bit.
This hits a little too close to home because practically speaking it definitely represents the world in which we exist and need to navigate with a biblical worldview. And the applications can get tricky.
However notice in the text that there is nothing unjust about the master’s actions (Matthew 20:13). The first laborers got exactly what they agreed to. If there was a contract, the contract would have been abided by lawfully. If they were to be angry at anything it would be at the masters generosity…but that’s it.
Jesus (as He always does), challenges us with an upside down gospel.
The message is this: Quit your covetous hate, because the first will be last and the last will be first in the kingdom of heaven. Seniority is irrelevant to Christ. We all come to Him equal. None of our work ultimately earns us anything.
“Significantly, many Christians who study this parable identify with the employees who put in a full day’s work, rather than the add-ons at the end of the day. We like to think of ourselves as responsible workers, and the employer’s strange behavior baffles us as it did the original hearers. We risk missing the story’s point: that God dispenses gifts, not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God’s requirements for a perfect life. If paid on the basis of fairness, we would all end up in hell,“ (Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace, 61-62).
What we have on this earth is more than we deserve and what we receive in heaven is completely up to the Lord.
Worldly fairness is a fallacy.
We must rest in what the master says to the second set of workers in verse 6, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ Whether a person receives grace the day before his death or labors all his life for the Lord, God see’s us all as equal. And whatever HE feels is right, HE will give us.