TO CHEW ON: " ' Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?' " Matthew 20:15
Jesus, master storyteller that He was, created the problem in His parable by structuring it the way He did. The all-day workers would probably not have argued about their pay if they'd been paid first. But, alas, they were paid last after they saw the latecomers get the same amount they had agreed to work for. And so they expected more.
The takeaway from this story comes in the last two verses, where the landowner addresses his discontented servants. He makes several points.
- His money is his to do with as he likes. If we take the landowner to be God, we can see this is an affirmation of His sovereignty. He is sovereign over Earth and what happens on it.
- His generosity (goodness) with his late-coming workers brings out the envy/outrage (evil) in his all-day servants: " ' Is your eye evil because I am good?' "
- The "laws" of the kingdom of heaven (those principles by which it operates) are different than the kingdom of this world: " ' So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.' "
Several points rise out of this for our own self-examination:
- God's sovereignty is great when we understand it. But like these discontented servants, it's easy to question what He's doing when we don't. We grapple with things as small as perceived unfairnesses to the old question: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" This brings us to our own interchanges with God like Job's:
GOD: " 'Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?' " - Job 40:8.
JOB: “ 'I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know' " - Job 42:2-3 (emphasis added).
- God's goodness underlies everything He does. When we get that stained deep into the grain of our belief, we'll find fewer occasions to gripe. The fact that we can even expect a reward at all is grace. "The parable affirms that God is absolutely sovereign and gracious in granting rewards. Those who serve Him can trust His grace" - J. Lyle Story, commentary on Matthew, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1327.
- The kingdom of heaven never ceases to surprise. Let's continue to explore its "laws of gravity" and live according to them, even as we continue to walk this earth.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your sovereignty and goodness. Help me to learn and apply these principles of Your kingdom as I continue to live and work on Earth.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.