That is not fair!
Have you ever found yourself saying this very same thing? A coworker or classmate does not seem to be doing their share of the work but they get the same pay or grade as you, maybe even better. Maybe you say it when nothing seems to be going your way; car troubles, relationships fractured, bad grades, your sanity cracking. We all experience situations that make us want to scream at what we perceive as an unjust life.
But what makes one thing fair and another unfair?
In Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard, everyone was paid the same. Is that not fair? The first workers agreed to a set amount, reasonable pay for a day’s labor. The other workers only agreed to work for what was right. They left it to the discretion of the landowner. In his generosity the most recent hires received what he had promised the original workers. Those who were hired first said nothing as the landowner began to dole out the money. Because of his generosity towards the newer workers, they expected more.
And that is the key concept that strains so many aspects of our life; what we expect. Our expectations make it difficult sometimes to see God answering our prayers or His hand actively working in our lives. Our expectations may set us up for failure in our schools, our jobs, our relationships with one another, and certainly in our relationship with God through Jesus. If our expectations are not met then, “I guess I did not really need to learn that,” “It will not matter in the ‘real’ world,” “I will just find a new job,” “I do not need anyone else.”
Our expectations, our limited understanding of all that is makes us think that God must have failed to answer our prayers, He is not here with us, He does not care. The reality is that could not be farther from the truth! God loves us all! He is with us in every moment but rarely how we would expect.
This parable has a double lesson to teach. The first is that God is just. God alone rightly discerns what is fair and unfair. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). If we truly want life to be fair, we would all be dead the first time that we sinned. If that were the case, I doubt that humanity would exist and we would not even be here to debate the fairness of life.
God’s justice is tempered by His abundant love. In His love for us He is merciful and forgiving. Those who come to God through Jesus, will all receive the same wage when the days are done: eternal life and citizenship in God’s Kingdom, to be called His children!
This message is reiterated as Jesus addresses the request of James and John’s mother. They have an expectation of their place in God’s Kingdom and their mother wants assurance that it will be so; after all they were among the first disciples to be called by Jesus. Jesus answered this question through the parable before it could even be asked, and still it was asked.
The second lesson to learn from the parable takes us to Matthew 9:35-38 and 28:18-20. We are the workers, called to go out into all of the world and make disciples of all the nations. We have been given a task, a responsibility, a privilege to live our life for God and preach the Good News of His Coming Kingdom so that everyone would have the opportunity to choose to come to Him through Jesus, our savior!
This is not easy but it is immensely satisfying. What we do and say here in this age can open people’s eyes to see the glorious future our amazing God has planned for all who enter His vineyard. We may never give the physically blind back their sight but thanks to God’s love and power we can heal the spiritual blindness of those we encounter each day. Rely on God’s power, His plan, and His will. Trust in Him with all of your heart, soul, and mind and rejoice in knowing that the God of all creation will wipe away your tears and call you son or daughter!
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- What are your expectations of God as you pray? Do you have a preconceived notion of what an answered prayer looks like? Can you think of times when you missed His answer initially only to see it later on?
- Do you see circumstances in your life as being unfair? Think about how they might be helping you to grow stronger in your relationship with others and especially with God through Jesus. It is difficult sometimes but how can you turn your view of these circumstances around? Our response to situations is often more powerful than the situation itself.
- What does your work within the vineyard look like? How are you working to spread the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus and the Coming Kingdom of God? Is there someone specific that you can think of who is blind to God’s love? How can you help them to finally see?