“So the last shall be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20: 16
It’s not fair! Raising three sons, we heard this phrase a lot. Whether one of our boys believed a brother was getting a better deal or complaining about a friend’s apparent freedom, all parents have fought this comparison battle.
And yet, we tend to do the same with God. When we look at the world and see all the injustice we face, it’s easy to wonder – where is God in the equation? Is God unfair?
Jesus tells a parable that speaks to this very issue of fairness. A landowner is looking for help harvesting his vineyard. So, he hires day workers for a long, 12-hour day. The pay for the day equals one denarius (one day’s wage).
A few hours later, the landowner decides he needs more help. Finding more workers, he offers them the job. Towards the end of the day, around 5pm, the landowner hires a few more guys to work the last hour of sunlight.
Finally, with the day’s work completed, it’s pay time. This is when things get interesting. Starting with the last guys hired, he pays the men who worked just one hour a full day’s wage. They were shocked. They knew they didn’t deserve it, but you can imagine their excitement.
Suddenly, all the other workers begin to imagine how much their half day and full day’s work must be worth – certainly much more than a denarius. But, the landowner pays them all the same thing – one denarius.
Imagine how frustrated the full day workers felt – It’s not fair! However, the landowner had not been the least bit unfair to any of the workers. He had given them exactly what was promised. He basically says, “Look guys, this is my money. And if I want to be generous to others, I can – even if they don’t deserve it.”
Now, what is Jesus trying to tell us? Jesus is saying that the reward of following Him is the same. No matter when a person responds to the call of God to follow Jesus, the reward is the same. Heaven is the reward for the life-long believer and the person who trusts Christ on their deathbed. So is God unfair? Yes. He unfairly offers His grace and forgiveness that none of us deserves. This is the gift of grace. Have you received your reward?