Read Matthew 20:1-2,8-16
1-2 “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.
8 “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them,beginning with the last workers first. 9 When those hired at five o’clock were paid,each received a full day’s wage. 10 When those hired first came to get their pay,they assumed they would receive more. But they,too,were paid a day’s wage.
11 When they received their pay,they protested to the owner,12 ‘Those people worked only one hour,and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’
13 “He answered one of them,’Friend,I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? 14 Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. 15 Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’
16 “So those who are last now will be first then,and those who are first will be last.” (NLT)
We don’t like queue jumpers,those who get more than they deserve,those who get preferential treatment. And because of this we find it hard to understand grace. God’s grace is essentially unfair. He pardons those who do terrible things-assuming they repent. He treats trivial and terrible sinners the same. Respectable churchgoers might miss out on eternal life whereas a wayward prodigal will get in at the last minute.
Jesus tells this parable as a warning to the religious Jews who figured they had a basic right to God’s favour. He warns them that entry to heaven is open to all if they will only turn to Jesus as the one who qualifies them for it.
It is certainly not ‘fair’. But fairness is just what we don’t want when it comes to God’s dealings with us. Mercy triumphs over justice,and just as well for us. Fairness and justice might see us estranged from God now and always.
But grace is the ultimate reality. None of us deserves eternal life. Thank God we need not get what we deserve. Thank God for his wonderful unfairness!