Monday, September 19, 2011

But it's not fair

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 20:1-16

TO CHEW ON: "'These men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.'" Matthew 20:12

The landowner in this parable didn't help the situation when he paid his worriers "beginning with the last..." Of course when the all-day workers saw what the several-hour workers got, they expected more, even though they had agreed to work for one penny when they first signed on. However, that little twist of plot draws attention to issues we all face when we view life and the apparent unfairness of God's dealings with us and others.

What does this parable mean?

Pictures spiritual reality
First, Jesus alerts us to the fact that this is another simile about the kingdom of heaven. It seems to be an elaboration on what He just said (end of the previous chapter): "But many who are first will be last and the last first."

Perhaps one kingdom meaning is that those who come to God at the "eleventh hour" of their lives receive the gift of eternal life in the same way that those who have lived for God since "early in the morning" of their lives. Matthew Henry elaborates on this idea in his commentary:
"If we understand it of that which is ours by gift, the free gift of God, it teaches us to be content with such things as we have. If God be better in any respect to others than to us, yet we have no reason to complain while he is so much better to us than we deserve" - Matthew Henry in Matthew Henry's Commentary p. 1305.

The story also states clearly that God has a right to do what He wishes with His own creatures even though those dealings may not always seem fair to us. (Is it fair, for example, that some of us were born in North America where we enjoy a comfortable, even luxurious life compared to others who were born into an environment of starvation, sickness, poverty, warfare?) Matthew Henry again:
"What God has is his own; and this will justify him, in all the disposals of his providence; when God takes from us that which was dear to us we must silence our discontents with this: May he not do what he will with his own?" (Matthew Henry, p. 1305).

There will come a a payday.
"Evening time is the reckoning time. Faithful labourers shall receive their reward when they die; it is deferred till then, that they may wait with patience for it. Ministers call them into the vineyard, to do their work; death calls them out of the vineyard to receive their penny: and those to whom the call into the vineyard is effectual, the call out of it will be joyful. They did not come for their pay till they were called; we must with patience wait God's time for our rest and recompense; go by our master's clock"

...The giving of a whole day's wages to those that had not done the tenth part of a day's work is designed to show that God distributes his rewards by grace and sovereignty, and not of debt" - Matthew Henry, p. 1304.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for another picture of the kingdom of heaven. Help me to live with confidence in Your sovereignty and secure in Your all-wise grace. Amen.

MORE: Payday in heaven
"Though there be degrees of glory in heaven, yet it will be to all a complete happiness. In heaven every vessel will be full, brimful, though every vessel is not alike large and capacious." - Matthew Henry, p. 1304.

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