It's Not Fair...It's Better
“You love Juliet more than you love me!”
“You know that’s not true. I love you both the same.”
“But she always gets what she wants, and I never get what I want.”
Does this conversation sound familiar to you? I often find myself in the middle of this or some version of this conversation with my 5-year-old daughter, Rose. It usually comes when my 2-year-old daughter, Juliet, gets to choose which show to watch, or when I play a game with her. Jealousy kicks in, and immediately I’m accused of having more love for Juliet. Never mind the fact that Rose usually gets to pick our shows and activities because her younger sister’s communication is limited to 2-word sentences.
As humans we are really good at jealousy. If someone else gets attention, love, money, property, or anything else, we see it as something we ourselves are not getting. We live in a mindset of limitation. There is only so much money in the world, so much time in the day, and so much attention we can give or receive. If someone else gets any of it, that’s something that we are not getting.
In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells about the kingdom of God through a story of a landowner who hires workers throughout the day to come and work in his vineyard. He agrees to pay them all what is fair, and at the end of the day he invites the workers to come and get paid. The first to get paid are the people who started working in the evening. They are paid a full day’s wage for an hour or two of work. Very last, those who worked the full day come in. In verse 10 it says, “…they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage.” They are not happy about this. They ask how the landowner could pay the same to people who have been working for an hour and people who have been working all day in the scorching heat.
The landowner replies, “Should you be jealous because I am generous?”
This arrangement is not fair, but that’s the beauty of the kingdom of God. God is not fair. God has infinite grace, love, and forgiveness. There is enough and more than enough for everyone. This is extremely difficult for us to wrap our minds around. In our limited, zero-sum-game world, how can God have enough love and grace for all of us? How can others getting more not mean that I get less? The answer is that God isn’t fair; He’s better than fair. This infinite love means that instead of jealousy fueling a desire for more, we can be fueled by thankfulness and joy for a God who gives all we need. We can celebrate together the fact that we all share equally in God’s love and grace. Because in the end none of us can earn grace, God gives it.
And God gives it unfairly.
Grace & Peace,
Bryce Vander Stelt
The Laborers in the Vineyard
20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage,[a] he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.[b] 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.[c] 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?[d] 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’[e] 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”[f]