When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner… (Mt. 20:9-11)
The workers in today’s story, who grumbled about being short-changed, have been joined by many others who have also complained about this parable.
I’ve always chuckled when people would protest, “This is no way to run a business.” I would respond by saying, “Exactly. Jesus isn’t giving us economic policy. He’s talking about how the kingdom of God works.” Often people would then say, “The Kingdom isn’t fair.” And I would respond, “Thank God it isn’t.”
In our relationship with God, we don’t want fair—we need love. We don’t want justice—we need mercy. We don’t want what we deserve—we need grace.
The owner of the vineyard shows much grace when he gives those who only worked one hour the same as those who worked all day. Those who had worked all day were appalled and offended by his generosity.
Grace is appalling and offensive. It’s insulting to be told we can’t earn it. It’s humbling to think we are just as needy as everyone else.
The owner gave the usual daily wage to those who worked twelve hours and to those who worked one hour. He gave all of them what they needed. And God the Father will give us just what we need—the grace of Jesus.
If we have been grumbling about this story, I encourage us to stop. There are two things Jesus wants us to take from this story.
First, in our relationship with God, let go of fair and embrace grace. If we insist on fair, we will never be grateful.
Second, in our relationships we need to be more like Jesus. Just as Jesus doesn’t give us what we deserve—judgment, so we need to give people not what they deserve, but what they need—grace. If we kept score on what others deserve, and if others kept score on what we deserve, everyone’s heart would be bankrupt and love would be destroyed.
- In your relationships, are you more like the owner who gave grace, or more like the workers who grumbled? If the latter, is your grumbling making anyone happy?
- In your relationship with God, do you identify with the workers who worked all day, or those who worked one hour? Do you understand that Jesus wants you to connect with the latter?
- Those who are given grace are meant to extend grace. Are you doing so? In your life right now, who needs more grace from you?