THE SCANDAL OF GRACE
Give thanks to God, the Giver of “every good and perfect gift” (Jas. 1:17a).
Read Matthew 20:1–16
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectWhat unexpected or undeserved gifts do you enjoy?
If he were living today, the landowner in today’s parable might find himself in court, charged with discrimination and violation of equal-pay legislation. As it is, he faced heavy criticism for paying the identical wage to hard-working early birds and eleventh-hour slackers, as well as everyone in between (9,10).
The focus of this parable is not laws or rights, but God’s grace. Grace, by definition, is undeserved; and from our all-too-human perspective, it often appears “unfair” (11,12). The problem begins, as so many problems do, when we indulge in comparison (12): a veritable breeding-ground for discontent and envy. Consider the landowner’s question: “Or are you envious because I am generous?” (15).
Think of Christians who frustrate you because of what they do or don’t do, believe or don’t believe. Then let Romans 3:23 convict you: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If you received your just desserts, what might this look like? Romans 6:23 presents a sobering reminder: “the wages of sin is death…” Grace means that instead of reaping what we do deserve, which is eternal separation from God, we are blessed with what we don’t deserve—forgiveness, reconciliation and a richly rewarding relationship with a gracious and generous God.
Make a list of God’s mercies that you don’t deserve.
Father, help me to see others through the lens of mercy. May I be quick to love and slow to judge.
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