Life isn’t fair! You hear children say this all the time, but as adults we think it many times.
Why is it that she get the promotion and I didn’t? Why is it that I have a weight problem and that gal can eat candy all day long but is skinny as a rail? My favorite – wow they drive a big new car – how can they afford that – that isn’t fair!!! Little more serious and closer to home – Why is it that everyone in my family gets cancer and dies? That is on my mind all the time especially with my sister fighting lung cancer. She quit smoking years ago, it isn’t fair that she should have lung cancer.
But obviously as a Christian I realize God is sovereign and in charge and that all the things that happen in life – he uses all things for good. It is just seeing the good sometimes is blocked by our desire for fairness.
We all want to be treated fairly. Most of us figure that if we do our best, God will deal with us fairly on judgment day. But Jesus taught that God does not operate according to our notion of what is fair.
In Matthew 20, Jesus told a story about a man who owned a vineyard. Early in the morning he hired some workers. He agreed to pay them the going rate for a day’s wage, so they started working. About nine o’clock, he found some more workers and told them he would pay them a fair wage, so they went to work. The same thing happened at noon and again at three in the afternoon. Finally, at five in the afternoon he found some more men standing idle, hired them and sent them into his vineyard.
At sundown, he called his foreman and ordered him to pay all the workers, beginning with those hired last. For their hour or so of work, they received the full day’s wage. So did everyone else, including the ones hired early in the morning. Everyone received a full day’s wage, no matter how long they had worked.
Those who had worked all day grumbled. They didn’t think it was fair that they got paid the same as those who had only worked an hour. They thought they should get more.
But the owner of the vineyard said, “What’s your gripe? You got the day’s wage we agreed on. If I want to give the same wage to someone who didn’t work as long as you, that’s my business.”
The main point is that God doesn’t operate on the merit system as we think he should. God deals with us according to His free grace. As Paul explains, “For it is by his grace you are saved [delivered from God’s judgment], through trusting him; it is not your own doing. It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of” (Ephesians 2:8
Even if we are a pretty good person, one that has been at work in the vineyard since early morning, you’ve still sinned against God. We have sin that must be paid for. Maybe the guy coming in at five in the afternoon has more sin than us. But if God is just, both of us must have our sins paid for. Either you pay (the merit system), or God pays (the grace system). God’s grace doesn’t seem fair to the self-righteous, but for those who recognize how undeserving they are, it is truly wonderful!