What happens when God's sense of justice is in conflict with our own? This is something that Christians have wrestled with down through the ages. Some come up with elaborate schemes of election to appease their uneasiness with God's justice. Others go to great lengths to explain why God's hands are off the situations entirely. I don't really want to debate any of this, but suffice it to say that this has been a problem for us throughout history.
Our story from Sunday is the epitome of this. A rich landowner calls workers at various points in the day, then he deliberately pays them all the exact same wage. In fact he starts with the ones that worked the shortest amount of time which seems to build an expectation in the rest that they might get a bonus. When they all end up with the same wage, well what would you do in that situation?
This story challenges our sense of fairness and justice. Why are we so fixated on "fairness". Actually I would dare say we are fixated, at least in North America, on ensuring we get what is due us. I say this because all across the world there is incredible disparity between the haves and have nots - and if we were really concerned about equity then we'd do something about it. (Please don't be offended if you already do, because I know many give sacrificially to the third world, but this comment is more for those of us who don't think about it often enough).
So what is fair? What do we deserve?
I know most of us are realistic enough about our lives to recognize that we don't really deserve God's mercy - yet thankfully God thought we were worthwhile to extend it to us. But what this verse really hits home on is those times in life where it is just not fair. We step out in faith, or we decide to invest in a person or an idea and in the end there seems to be no real benefit.
The problem is one of focus. It is God's justice, not ours. It is God's generosity not ours. Our culture teaches us that we can do anything if we put our minds to it. It is a nice sentiment but hardly an accurate reflection of reality. So when we are convinced life isn't fair, it is true. Life isn't fair - that is part of the problem. But it is also the point where God steps in with His justice. However, because what we are looking for is a sense of "fairness" we can easily miss the sense of God's generosity.
A good friend of mine asked me once why he seemed to be more blessed than other people. (BTW this guy has many challenges in life that would leave most people bitter.) I told him that it wasn't a matter of him being more blessed, but that his eyes were open to seeing that blessing. Our own persuit of our sense of justice can often overshadow our ability to see the tremendous blessings God pours out on us all.
Stop to think about the workers that came in at the end of the day. They have families too. They missed a whole day of work. They were going to have to go home in failure, likely to a stressed out spouse and hungry kids. They might not have laboured the same, but were they any less deserving? This story seems to say that God's answer is one of generosity.
I would encourage you to look for the blessings, look for God's extravogant generosity. Don't let your own sense of "fairness" rob you from that blessing.
Pastor Freedom Vineyard