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Is God Unfair?
But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” - Matthew 20:14-16, ESV
Is you have children, you have probably heard the words, "That's not fair!" If you're human, you've probably thought them yourself and said them out loud in frustration, even as an adult. We have a strong innate sense of justice, and in a fallen world, it's not hard to have our sense of fairness badly offended. Of course, the fact that we're so quick to cry "unfair!" when we're being cheated reveals the fallen nature of our own heart.
But it just doesn't make any sense to demand fairness from God in the things of His kingdom, His salvation. By definition, grace is not fair. It is gloriously, wondrously unfair! That's what this parable is meant to illustrate. The workers who worked all day and bore the heat of the day and the bulk of the work thought they had been mistreated because they had only been paid a denarius. In reality, they received exactly what was promised to them. No one had been cheated.
What these complaining workers missed was this: They had no special entitlement to be hired at the beginning of the day. The fact that they were hired in the morning, while the other men stood around and waited only to be hired later, said nothing special about them. Their early hire was a kindness and their pay was fair and as promised.
Some people have been Christians for as long as they can remember, having come to faith in Christ at an early age. They have worshiped God and served Jesus in His kingdom their whole lives. Others don;t come to faith in Christ until later in life. But both receive salvation, full and free. If I serve the Lord for decades and someone comes to Jesus on his deathbed, why should he get to heaven just as surely as I do? Because salvation is all a gift of grace. I am not owed anything, and the fact that I came to know Jesus at an early age is a blessing and not anything I deserved.
If we insist on fairness with God, we may just get what we deserve. I'm so glad I don't! I deserve eternal condemnation for my crimes against a Holy God who loved me enough to give His Son for me. That He would spare me and punish Him instead is indeed gloriously unfair! Praise God!
[NOTE: Some people who believe in a "socialist" Jesus see this parable as teaching socialism, where different amounts of work are all paid the same. But Jesus is making a point about God's grace in salvation, not about labor and economics.]
Prayer Based on Psalm 47:
We praise You, O God!
We shout to You with loud songs of joy!
Let us not hold back or be timid in our praise of You.
For You, O Lord, the Most High, are to be feared,
a great King over all the earth.
You have subdued our enemies under us,
and nations under our the Gospel, carried into the world by our feet.
You chose our heritage for us,
Your people, whom You love.
You are victorious, O God!
Jesus ascended to heaven and to the throne with a shout of victory,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
We sing praises to You, our God. We sing praises!
We sing praises to You, our King. We sing praises!
For You, our God, are the King of all the earth;
so we sing Your praises with a psalm!
You, our God, reign over the nations;
You sit on his holy throne until the day when
The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
You are gathering Your people from among every tribe, tongue, people and nation.
For the shields of the earth belong to You, our God;
You are highly exalted!
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