Tuesday, April 17, 2012

God's not fair. He's good.

Matthew 20:1-16   The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.  About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 

He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. 

He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing.  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?”

“Because no one has hired us,” they answered.

He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.”

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.”

The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.  So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.  When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 

“These 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.”

But he answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend.  Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

How unfair is this?  Those that put in a full day of work get the same pay as those who worked for only one hour, at the end of the day.  This is seriously whack.  Why did Jesus tell this story?  This is the lesson we worked on in our small group bible study last night.  This story teaches us how different God's ways are from our ways.  These verses are all about grace.  God is full of grace and God is good, not fair.  Thank goodness God is not fair.  I don't think most of us would like to receive a fair sentence from God.  I think we'd be pretty darn unhappy with a Fair God.  I believe we like the Good God.  

For example, what if God worked the point system.  We lose a point for every infraction of the 10 Commandments.  Minus a point every time we failed to honor our parents.  Can you remember being a teenager?  Yeah, there are a lot of negative points in that short period of time.  How about "bearing false witness?"  That is, essentially, lying.  Have you told any falsehoods?  Anybody stretch the truth?  You know I could go on and on.  There's that commandment about coveting and the one about using God's name in vain.  LOTS of points can be lost on these two.  How would we gain the points back?  I guess we could do good deeds.  That would be one way.  We could give money to churches and charities.  That would be another way.  Do you think your good deeds could make up for all your infractions of the Big 10?  I don't think so.

God is full of grace.  Some of the workers called came early in the day.  Other workers were called a few hours later.  Do you think some of the workers hired a few hours later were there when the first workers were hired?  Yeah, I think so.  The owner (God) gave them another chance.  And he gave them another chance a few hours later and then another chance a few more hours later.  Finally, at the 11th hour, he gave another chance.  God wants you to be reconciled to him, but he won't force it.  

I loved going through this lesson with my group.  There were so many stories.  Such different roads we've all traveled to faith in God.  I was born into my faith.  My mom and dad are christians and go to church, faithfully.  God was a big part of my growing up.  One day, I understood I wouldn't be able to rely on my parent's faith and I'd have to accept God's grace on my own.  I did.  Then I studied his word and tried to live an obedient life.  I failed constantly.  Thankfully, I understand I am forgiven and even more, God knew I would fail and he still wanted me anyway.  It's good to be around others who came to accept after living a long life of rejecting God.  They are so grateful for God's grace and the difference it has made in their lives.  This is something I will never experience.  It doesn't make me sad.  I listen to them tell about their transformed lives and I'm grateful I didn't have to experience life without God in it.  I have to remind myself of my blessings and not become a grumbling early hire.  Working in the vineyard, under the hot sun, for the creator of the universe is where I want to be.  I'll keep working on letting this knowledge show on my face, with my smile and show in the way I move through this world.

Who are you, in this story?  Do you know when the 11th hour will come?  I don't.  In my selfish way, I hope it is soon.  For the sake of any readers who haven't accepted God's grace, I pray you don't miss anymore chances.  God is good.

154.  Learning to cook a new vegetable, pea shoots
155.  Time to clean my office from the clutter starting to accumulate during these past few weeks
156.  Readers with encouraging and thought provoking comments
157.  The best episode of Mad Men yet, "Signal 30
158.  A recovering Dow


  1. Great post. One way I can tell just how NOT good I am is by considering that I want a fair God for everyone else, but a good God for me.

  2. nice...we spent a couple months going through a book...who god really is or something like that...and god is not fair...but he is good for sure...

  3. I don't know - I just live my life as the best Christian I can be, realizing I'm not perfect.  Life is full of injustice like that though.  

  4.  Thanks.  I'm sure this was a simple explanation of this parable, but the thought of the landowner asking for workers that had possibly turned him down at a previous time was a new thought for me.

  5.  Isn't knowing that we are forgiven such a wonderful feeling.  :)

  6. This made a difference to me.  Thank you.

  7. Parenting isn't always fair. Parenting is about approaching the individual needs of each child - and God is like that. I'm always amazed that with all that power, that He is a joyful, giving, loving, protective, encouraging, knight-in-shining armor God - not a villain King. I need to read this story with my boys - and have this same discussion. It might eliminate some bickering!

  8. I can't tell you how much that means to me.  

  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this parable. We just had a Sunday School lesson on this recently. I really enjoyed your ideas on the meaning of this parable. I think you are right on.

  10. Good thoughts, thanks.


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