September 12, 2016
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing.6 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?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “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.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘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.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The Kingdom of God is not fair. And God is not fair. The guy who works one hour makes the same amount of money as the guy who works all day. Shouldn’t the guy who worked eight hours be paid eight times as much as the guy who worked one hour? For this to be fair, either the guy who worked one hour didn’t deserve what he got or the one who worked eight hours deserved a lot more than he got.
At least that’s the way we tend to think about fairness. We think about it comparatively. What if there’s another way to think about fairness? We need to back up a step and ask a different question. Instead of asking why the guy who worked one hour got paid the same as the guy who worked eight hours, what if we asked why the guy only got to work one hour? That’s the question the land owner asked:
‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
Pay close attention to the answer.
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
Is it fair that this guy showed up to work in the morning and was passed over all day long? Maybe he was handicapped. Maybe he was elderly? Maybe he didn’t measure up? Maybe he wasn’t as strong as the other candidates? None of that mattered to the landowner.
This is not a parable about the characteristics of the workers but about the character of the landowner. And the character of the landowner can be described in two words: extravagant generosity.
That’s what God is like. Thankfully, he’s about so much more than fairness.
Almighty God, you are a good, good Father. You cause the sun to shine on the just and on the unjust. You reward people according to your goodness and not according to theirs. Help us to get our eyes off of ourselves and save us from all of our comparison with our neighbors. Help us to see you and to be glad for the equality of your grace—that you don’t play favorites yet you favor the underdog. Thank you. In Jesus name, Amen.
1. Why do we struggle with fairness?
2. If your child stayed up all night for a week to do a project for school and received an A and another kid put it off until the last night and turned in a project clearly inferior to your child’s and got the same A—would that offend you? Why?
3. Does it bother us that performance evaluation is given according to the character of the employer instead of according to the job done by the employee? Why?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.