The Parable of the Vineyard workers. A landowner goes out early in the morning to find workers to work in his vineyard. He finds them, and they agree to work for a certain amount of money. At nine o’clock he is passing through town, finds some men who need work, and sends them to work in his vineyard also. He repeats this process at noon and at three o’clock. At five o’clock in the evening, just before quitting time, he finds some people who are standing around and wants to know why they have not been working. They reply, “Because no one hired us.” The landowner sends them out to the vineyard.
In the evening, he tells his foreman to pay them, starting with the last hired. Each person receives compensation for a day of work. The people who were hired first see this happening and think that if the people who have only worked an hour received that much pay, surely we will receive more! Yet, they too, receive a day’s wages. And how do they react?
They protested to the landowner, “Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat (vv11-12).”
We can all feel it deep inside, can’t we? It was the cry of the older brother when the father welcomed home the prodigal. It is the cry in children’s church, or in our own living rooms when one child feels that someone has received more than they deserve. It was the cry of the Jewish believers who wanted to add to the salvation of the Gentile believers. And sometimes it is the cry of the saints when a new believer or new member, one who has not been in the trenches, one who does not know the history, receives the same grace that others feel they have earned.
Once, when I had been at a new church for about four months, a member asked me if I had heard the good news that a fellow member had been healed of a disease. I said yes, and that I was rejoicing because I had been praying for that person. The church member’s face became stiff, and they said, “You don’t understand, we have been praying for this healing for six years!” I smiled and replied, “Good thing I got here to help you then.”
We all feel that sense of unfairness. We often feel that because we have been Christians longer, because we have prayed longer, because we have sacrificed more, because we have given our time, our money, and our service, we should receive more. And in a sense, we are right, because grace is inherently unfair. We want life to be fair! Or do we?
Do we truly want to receive what we deserve? If all of our righteous acts are the same to God as filthy rags, do we want to be treated fairly? We are each desperately in need of the grace that Jesus spoke of in this parable. We are deserving of death and eternal separation from God, but He has graciously forgiven our sins and made a way for us to experience His unmerited favor and lavish outpouring of love. God’s grace is the greatest kindness we can ever experience. And those who understand that they deserve nothing cannot begrudge this same gift to others. If you feel angered when others receive grace, check your heart. Could it be that you have begun to feel entitled to God’s love and grace?
Today’s author: Sharon Warner