“For the kingdom of Heaven is like..” So begins the parable of the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20. This parable begins with the master of the house bringing in workers who eagerly start at the beginning of the day (6AM). He tells them what he will give for wages, they agree, and set to work! A few hours later, he brings on more who were standing around waiting for work, telling these that he would give them what he felt was right. This happens twice more and finally at 5PM he hires his last workers. The work day ends at 6PM, and he pays his workers, beginning with the last, working his way to the first. When he finally gets to the early birds, he pays them the same amount he had paid the ones who had only worked one hour. But seeing what the others had received, these guys had expected to receive more than originally they were told feeling they deserved more for their work. To which the master replies to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? So the last will be first and the first last.”
It is easy to sympathize with the early workers. They were the ones who endured the heat of the day, feeling exhausted I’m sure by the end of it. Whereas the ones who worked one hour…probably felt pretty good and energetic still. We see here a master who is wanting to bless the latter workers as much as the first. He can do what he wants to with what is his after all. But the early birds, they’re angry and jealous, feeling like they had been short changed for what they had done.
The point of the parable was for the disciples essentially. They knew they were going to have to give up a lot to follow Christ. And they needed to be reminded that they would be rewarded, but to not expect God to give as they think He should. He gives according to His will and pleasure, not to what we deserve. And if we remember what we deserve, ultimately, it should humble us. Fairness, my friends, is not really what we want. Grace is God's gift to all, and we need to rejoice when we see others blessed by Him in ways we may not understand!
Ephesians 2:4-9 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For b y grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift from God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”