13 “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ 16 So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”
Early in life we learned about what’s fair and what isn’t fair. We learned about fair play and reciprocity. We were told to “play by the rules” and “to work hard so you’ll be successful.” We learned that coming in first is rewarded, and that in life there are winners and losers. We learned that losing feels bad. And our society loves winners – MVP athletes, winning teams, millionaires, valedictorians, and even best-in-show animals.
Playing fair means we expect to get what we deserve. We learned that it isn’t fair to cut in line in front of someone, and we certainly don’t like how it feels when it happens to us. Whether we were picked last for the team, or only warmed the bench, when we’re disappointed by “life” people say to us, “Well, life’s not fair!” It seems we’re always complaining, “It’s not fair!”
When we read this story of the landowner who gives the same pay to all the workers regardless of how long or short a time they worked, we immediately think, “Well, that’s not fair!” We feel this way because we are playing by the rules the world uses, and not seeing the amazing gift of grace through Jesus Christ that God gives us. Our sense of fairness is often based on what we think we deserve – what we’ve earned.
The “Peanuts” character Sally said it best: “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” We’re very unhappy when we don’t get our “fair share.” We feel resentment when we are asked to give away our hard earned income, our place in line, our privilege, to those who we perceive didn’t work hard for it, or who didn’t play fair by the same “rules.”
Maybe we’re missing the point of this story. The real payout is the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus, not the earthly, unequal pay. Jesus tells this story to make us feel uncomfortable. It makes us uncomfortable because we are still thinking about ourselves and what is fair, and not thinking about others and what is loving.
The Kin(g)-dom of God turns the world’s expectations upside down. We were all “losers” as sinners, until God sent Jesus to die for us, redeem us, and transform us. The extravagant grace of God is a gift we don’t deserve and can’t earn, no matter when in life we come to salvation. God is not “fair” with us. Thank God!
Instead, God is righteous, loving, and merciful with us. God has set us free from the world’s rules of winning, losing, and what’s “fair.” Instead, God has blessed us with extravagant grace to be the beloved children of Christ’s Kin(g)-dom.
By Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
Do you feel that God’s love has set you free from the world’s expectations of winning, losing and what’s “fair?” Have you experienced God’s love for you in your life? Then take some time today to thank God for the extravagant gift of grace through Jesus Christ!
Prayer: Loving God, we still struggle with trying to earn your love and wanting our fair share. Help us to understand that you love us where we are, and that you will continue to transform us by the gift of your extravagant grace through Jesus Christ. Amen.