A few days ago, I found myself in Matthew 20:1-16: “The Parable of the Workers Paid Equally.” It’s the parable where workers who had worked an 10-hour day are paid the same amount as the workers who only worked 1-hour. Jesus ends this parable with: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” I read it, shut my Bible, and felt slight bit of anger welling up inside me.
“What the heck! That’s not fair!”
Ah, yes, I am sooo justified in my judgements, but I was little angry at the parable. …and of course, I felt a tad guilty for having those feelings. I mean, Jesus spoke this parable, and I read it 2000 years later, obviously there is something I can learn from it….like that I have “it’s not fair!” issues. I closed my Bible and felt sorry for the workers in the parable that had to work all day for the same amount of pay as the people who only worked an hour. In the good ‘ol land of minimum wage and fair pay for workers, this made me upset. “No child left behind!!” ….or something like that.
Before you judge me for writing my honest reaction, because honestly, I seriously doubt I’m the only person who has ever had these feelings about this parable, please know that my slight bit of parable frustration launched an “I need to understand the point of this” kind of investigation.
The thing is, the workers who worked all day, had agreed to the pay before they began. No one was cheated! Not a single worker was underpaid, and there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by the landowner. So really, if anyone is to “blame” for “poor” pay, it’s the 10-hr Workers. The worker should have entered into the employment agreement with some sort of clause in their contract of what would happen if this situation should arise…..but that’s not really the point of the parable.
Jesus shared this parable because He was trying to point out Grace. If a person has years of dedicated service to the Lord or if they believe in Jesus on their death-bed (like the thief if on the cross), the people are given the same reward of heaven. It’s all based on grace! Grace can’t be calculated and Jesus’ parable doesn’t make sense from a worldly business view-point.
“We (Christians) like to think of ourselves as responsible workers and the employer’s strange behavior baffles us as it did the original hearers. We risk missing the story’s point and that God dispenses gifts not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit. for none of us comes close to satisfying God’s requirement for a perfect life. If paid on fairness, we would all end up in hell.” (Yancy “What’s so amazing about Grace.”)
One commentary I came across, stated in bold: “It’s all based on grace—not human economic calculations.”
During Jesus’ ministry, He turned the accepted order of His Kingdom. Prostitutes, tax collectors, sick and poor people, widows, little children are all the ones Jesus focuses on during His mission on Earth. Notice he doesn’t seek out King Herod, or any other rulers at that time. I’m sure there was no “lunch date meetings” with the “higher-ups.” Jesus wasn’t trying to gain Earthly acceptance. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19 NIV)
God’s grace is a gift, and He is generous to gift whomever He choses. “It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He created each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 MSG)
I am a worker and have been for most of my life. He has work for me to do, and wants me and all Christians, to join in that work. At the end, I will get the same “pay” as the thief on the cross, who led a life of sin and then repented as he was dying. As unfair as it may seem to my simple Earthly mind, I need to realize and REJOICE that there is abundant grace….OVERFLOWING grace…..available for all! I am not perfect, nor lead a perfect life. I need grace, just as much as anyone else. So, as a reflection of His grace, I need to make sure I extend it to all I come in contact with, so that they may have the same joy. “Go and tell all nations.” (Matthew 28:19 NIV)
Get to work! 🙂
Following the path,