"'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." Matthew 20:14-16
In our eyes, the law-abiding citizen "deserves" forgiveness. But what about the murderer? The faithful husband "deserves" a home in heaven. But what about the adulterer? A person who leaves the comforts of home and serves for 40 years in a foreign land "deserves" salvation. But what about a person who rejected God all their life and then trusted in Jesus on their deathbed? Is God's grace fair?
Today's passage is the conclusion of a story Jesus told about a man who hired workers for his vineyard. The first ones hired went out early in the morning to start the job. About 9:00 a.m., he hired some others to join them. He hired additional workers at noon, some more at 3:00 p.m. and then a final group at 5:00 p.m.--an hour before quitting time. When the workers lined up for their pay, everyone was given the same amount of money. Those who had started early in the morning were none too pleased to learn that those who had worked less received the same amount. But the landowner said, "I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go."
The point of Jesus' story is not about a vineyard, workers, and fair wages. Jesus told the story to teach us about His free gift of grace. Those of us who have been believers for some time can start to feel like we deserve what God gives us. We have been at it hard and long. How dare He show grace to "sinners"? That's when He sternly reminds us that grace is a free gift and can never be earned. The model citizen and the murderer, the faithful spouse and the adulterous one, the missionary who gave their life in service or the person who turns to Christ with their last breath--grace is available for all. Thank God that grace is never fair.
Father, thank You for Your grace. May those of us who have followed You for many years never begin to feel deserving. In Jesus' name. Amen.