Matthew Chapter 20

Life’s not fair, but God’s grace isn’t either.

Having read the parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20:1-16) many times in my lifetime, I can already anticipate my reaction before I get to the end of the passage.  It seems absurd that workers would get paid the same wage for a working a fraction of the time in the field.  How on earth could this be fair?  

Especially today, living in a culture that puts its ultimate fulfillment in achieving the “American Dream” by working hard and being rewarded with more wealth makes this concept even more counter intuitive to us. In corporate America, there are complete systems, methodologies, databases to figure out what is an equitable amount of pay in a certain region for a specific job role.  We even have websites that try to help you figure that out before you apply for a job so you know how to negotiate for a fair wage. We have companies and unions with positions dedicated to negotiating terms to find a fair compensation package. 

Pursuit of fairness is engrained in us at a very young age. Any family with kids is familiar with the phrase “that’s not fair”, because kids use it on a regular basis.  Although many of us think it, kids can’t help but let it out verbally when that is what they are thinking.  They use it when they believe a brother or sister got a better Christmas gift, feel they were assigned less difficult chores, got away with something they didn’t.

What if we asked God to be fair?  God has made it clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God” Romans 3:23, and that the “wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23.  Asking God to be fair is asking for death and complete separation from him.  However God extends his grace to us by the sacrifice his son Jesus on the cross, so we don’t receive what we deserve. Isn’t that even more absurd?

In the parable if I put myself in the position of the worker who worked the least, yet still received a full day’s wage, I imagine how grateful I would be for the unfairly generous wage that I had received.  When we look to our lives, should we not stop focusing on our earthly pursuit of fairness, and instead focus on the unfairly generous portion of grace that God has extended to us?