.It’s a rampant thought. We compare ourselves to others. We see what others are doing, achieving, receiving, buying, or…! You name it. We are always looking at others and want things to be fair.
The end of the Gospel of John shows this emotion when Peter is talking to Jesus. Jesus is so tender and loving to Peter. What a scene. And then what does our friend Peter ask? He asks about that other guy- John. Jesus essentially says, “What’s it to you? Worry about yourself. You have work to do.”
I struggle with this. Especially this past year. I have been sick in more ways than one. My body has failed me. My mind has failed me. I have nothing in this body. I look at the seemingly healthy and compare myself. I eat healthy! I exercise! I pray! They do none of this! Why me?! I am asking the wrong questions.
I am still waiting to see what this struggle or trial is all about. It hurts.
But the point here is what Jesus says about this selfish attitude. It’s about how we respond. We also need to recognize that Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit do not operate as we operate. God says My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. Can we recognize this?
Imagery and wisdom abound in Matthew 20. Jesus talks about the Kingdom through the parable of the vineyard workers. Throughout the day, a landowner hires workers to work the harvest that has grown in his fields. When he finds workers ready, he seems surprised to see workers ready and without work. Throughout the day, the owner hires workers to bring in the harvest.
The story’s climax comes with payday. We see human nature and God nature at work. First, the last to be hired are paid first. That’s weird. Human nature tells us that if we’re first to work, then we should be first to be paid! This doesn’t go unnoticed by those first hired. As they wait, they develop a sense of indignation and then consider how unfair their situation is. Furthermore, the laborers hired last were paid the same as those who had worked all day! The workers grumble.
The landowner simply replies to the grumbling workers, “I have been fair. I have paid what was agreed. I can do as I please. Why are you jealous because I am kind to others?”
So, what do we take away from this? What are we to do? I believe the big principle here is grace. Grace is that peculiar act of God that does not make sense to any man. The law, on the other hand, does make sense- we get what we deserve. Grace, on the other hand, gives us what we do not deserve.
We need to realize God does not deal with us unfairly. Honestly, if we wanted what we thought was fair, we would be in hell this very instant! So, let us first be glad that God’s fairness is paired with grace. We cannot go before God and demand that we deserve better. For God can readily ask us if we really want what we deserve. Remember, the wages of sin is death.
Furthermore, are we ready and willing to work? Is our work just that- works? Or, is it of service in grace? When we are ready and able, will the Lord of the Harvest come and find workers who are not only ready to work, but also to work in the grace that has been given to us?
The Lord will give mercy to who he wants to give mercy. Can we rejoice in this when others are given mercy and grace that seems to be more than our own? If we are part of the body of Christ, can we rejoice when a part of the body is blessed greater than ourselves? Spurgeon in regard to this passage says, “Do not let us dwell too much upon [whether we are first or last], for we shall share the honor given to each. When we are converted, we become members of Christ’s living body; and as we grow in grace, and get the true spirit that permeates that body, we shall say, when any member of it is honored, ‘This is honor for us.'”
This honor is for all of us.
Be glad that the Lord’s ways are above our ways. Be ready for the Lord of the Harvest to call you into His vineyards. And lastly, rejoice when your brother is honored and given great mercy.
Andrew, I am ashamed to admit it but I think I too would’ve been one of the grumblers who thought it was so unfair to be paid the same as those who had worked so much less .
. Lord, I pray that I would have the grace and generosity that you have towards others
Good word, Andrew. I remember a time when I couldn’t believe how the Lord answered this particular lady’s prayers so readily when her theology was so messed up, while my prayers seemingly went unanswered though I studied and understood the scriptures so much better. By God’s Grace I now see better and can rejoice with others that are blessed. My heart was not right. And it still needs much work. May the new year continue to draw you into God’s depths.
Mary June Dowd
Thank you very much Andrew. Those were such inspiring and insightful words. And how true! I appreciated your thoughts, and your willingness to share. Sometimes we need to be reminded just how profound, how incredible, and how precious the grace of God really is.