Examples of real-life situations:
A friend or neighbor shows up with a new car and you’re still driving a clunker.
Someone gets promoted ahead of you or a family member and you consider yourself or that family member to be better qualified.
A tornado rips through a neighborhood and the home of the neighborhood Scrooge isn’t touched.
A person’s health begins to fail while others keep going and going and going with more energy and strength than can be remembered.
A family member passes away and you’re left to foot the bill for their funeral and burial.
(I imagine that many of you are able to easily add your own negative situations to that list.)
When events like this happen there are some who think, “Life’s not fair!” That’s a common reaction against what appears to be special favors granted to others; especially when we look at our own painful struggles. We may not say it out loud, but the thought could easily creep into our minds that sometimes God’s just not fair. If He really did love me, He’d be giving me a few perks along the way. When we determine that another person is getting something they didn’t earn or don’t deserve the grousing begins. Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. Guess I’ll go eat worms and whine about the injustice of it all.
There’s a parable in the 19th chapter of Matthew about a rich young ruler who had been possessed by his possessions. Jesus told him he could get the one thing he didn’t have and couldn’t buy — an authentic relationship with God through a personal relationship with Christ. Sadly, the man wanted nothing to do with it since he would need to surrender his priorities, his possessions, and his position in the world. Jesus implored the rich young ruler to Let Go and Let God and the man walked away full of himself, full of his wealth, and full of his position in the world but empty of God and that God offered to bring gladness to his soul.
Then Peter enters. Perhaps you’ve heard him called the disciples with the foot-shaped mouth. Bold Peter who not too far before that had proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Bold Peter who had been rebuked by Jesus for rebuking Jesus with thoughts of human expectations for the Messiah. Bold Peter who sought information concerning the rewards that the disciples would be given since they had given up everything to follow Jesus.
Jesus follows this up with another parable. The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.
The owner hires workers at 6 a.m. with the promise of a denarius. (A fair wage for a day’s work.) He hires more at 9, 12, and 3. Then, with only an hour of worktime left he hires more. At the end of the day, when the owner has his steward pay the workers, the last hired are the first paid. Imagine the raised eyebrows when it is seen they are given a denarius. Not sure what you are thinking but I can sense that those first hired workers especially are thinking they’re going to get a nice, fat raise and begin counting their chickens before they hatch so to speak. Nope. Not what happens. They get — you guessed it I hope — one denarius and they storm, “You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.”
Human thought runs like this — Equal pay for equal work is fair; equal pay for unequal work is not fair. When those who do the most work are rewarded it’s fair; when those who do the least work are rewarded it’s not fair.
According to this parable God is the owner of the vineyard and He rewards all equally. Consider that thought — rewards all equally. And that’s the fairness of God who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Time to look ourselves in the mirror and remember that God created each of us in His own image and loves everyone equally. Time to remember that God created alllll of us and loves allll of us. Time to remember that there is nothing any of us can do to earn or deserve God’s generosity. Time to remember that it doesn’t matter if you’ve loved Jesus since childhood or if people know you as a self-centered scoundrel or if you’re making a deathbed plea for mercy. God loves you!
God’s mercy and grace is not based upon human merit, the wages you earn, the labor you exert, or the good works you’ve been able to accomplish. God gives the same promise to all. His promise is given to every believer indiscriminately for His ways are not our ways.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Equal pay for all — Eternal Life! Praise the Lord!
The writer is the the chaplain at Ohio Living Dorothy Love and does pastoral care at Sidney First United Methodist Church.