What’s your idea of fairness? Matthew 20:1-16 teaches us that our personal concept of fairness may not always be in agreement with Gods. This parable goes a long way toward opening our eyes to the heart of a God who is much more than fair.
In first century Israel there was so much to do whether planting, cultivating, or harvesting the vineyards. It was hard physical labor working in the heat of summer. And so the owner of one vineyard went out very early in the day to hire workers. At 6:00 in the morning he hired laborers for a whole denarius, a Roman soldiers pay for a day. At intervals throughout the day three more groups of laborers were hired all for the same pay. They were grateful for their work until this climatic moment. What! Is it fair to give all the same amount? “Those fellows worked only one hour and yet you’ve paid them just as much as those of us who worked all day in the scorching heat.” Matthew 20:11, 12 TLB
Do we have the right to dictate how the landowner pays his workers? Wasn’t his decision to pay the same an act of mercy? Our demand of fairness from God reveals more about us than we would like. Could this be exposing attitudes of selfish ambition and pride? “The world’s definition of fairness is based on the sliding scale of society’s values and the changing will of the majority. But God doesn’t buy that definition. That’s why He will never be ‘fair’ from society’s perspective. His values are higher, far exalted above yours. His timetable is different… that’s why I praise you for being just, not fair.” Joni Earekson Tada
As believers in Christ we must put aside a competitive spirit and think like Jesus. In Jesus’ day people often felt superior because of their heritage or faithful obedience to the law. But salvation, God’s great act of mercy, is not an elite privilege for a few but a worldwide invitation to all. As we struggle in a world that often lacks attitudes of mercy and justice we can remember Jesus gives us something far greater than fairness. He lived the sum total of mercy and justice. This is the wonderful grace of Jesus.
Wonderful Grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free;
O the Wonderful Grace of Jesus reaches me!
Everyone cringes at the idea of ever being sent to prison. Though not behind bars sadly many do find themselves captive to an unpayable sin debt. In Bible times there were serious consequences for those who could not repay what they owed. The debtor could be thrown into prison, dependent on his family or friends to supply the money to purchase his freedom. Using this illustration Jesus teaches a parable about a king who generously forgave a man a ten million dollar debt. However, when the same man was asked to forgive only a ten dollar balance he prosecuted without pity. “…but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.” Matthew 18:30 KJV
Friends, we have incurred a terrible sin debt that can never possibly be paid. There is enough sin DNA within each of us to send us directly to hell. Do we really see our own distressing capacity to do wrong? We desperately need forgiveness. God’s forgiveness and mercy has been extended to us beyond all measure. To know what it is to be forgiven by God is to experience a gratitude that is truly boundless. By wonderful mercy and compassion the Lord Jesus paid our immense sin debt at the cross, canceling our sin record for all time.
Because God has forgiven everything from character faults to our crushing sins we must not withhold forgiveness from others. “He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.” George Herbert And so when the King saw the man refuse to cancel the lesser debt he“…delivered him to the tormenters, till he should pay all that was due unto him.” Matthew 18:34 KJV
When we do not forgive others we are cast into a personal prison where hurt, bitterness, and unbelief hold us captive. “A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.” Samuel Johnson The words of this song remind us just what we have been given through the amazing gift of forgiveness: “Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.” To continually forgive others is meant to be as much a way of life as breathing.
Yesterday I forgave all that once went so wrong. Today I will ask forgiveness for my weaknesses and lack of faith. Tomorrow forgiveness will pave my pathway with renewed hope and the strength of my abiding Savior. How wonderful to know that the tremendous power of forgiveness sets us free to thrive under the God of mercy and love.
Click here to read a beautiful quote about brokenness by Brennan Manning.
What wonder! What utter amazement that the babe of Bethlehem was destined to be my savior and king. He is the unfolding of the tender mercy of our God. He would shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death. His name was Jesus for He would save his people from their sins. “And the child grew… and the grace of God was upon Him.” Luke 2:40
In manhood the Spirit of God led Him to an old rugged cross where Jesus, innocent of all wrongdoing, died a cruel death. Victorious, His death banished forever the power of sin over our lives. Triumphant from the grave, He secured His rightful place as king upon the throne of our heart. So Jesus became the light of the world. The one preparing a dwelling for us where the truest reality of all is a place called Heaven.
In this year of our Lord, 2015, will you join me in kneeling before the manger in awe and worship. Then together, rising refreshed, ready to faithfully serve with all our loyalty and devotion, the babe from Bethlehem who became our king.
Wouldn’t it be phenomenal to be truly loving, forgiving vibrant people? As believers we are excited because “…when someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun.” 2 Cor 5:17 Entering into this new life we have been given a priceless source of grace to offer everyone we meet. It’s the Jesus life, true living resurrection taking place daily within us. It’s like bursts of resurrection power released and exploding inside. What a joy to be able to count on this great strength when we run into trouble of every kind.
God often does things so differently than we would have ever thought. For instance, when we run into problems loving others we would not have expected that the very challenges when overcome have taught us to love with God’s awesome love. Every believer has a great head start on becoming a resurrection receiver when they accept what Jesus did for them. “No you can have real love for everyone because your souls have been cleansed from selfishness and hatred when you trusted Christ to save you; so see to it that you really do love each other warmly with all your hearts.” 1 Pet 1:22 This fervent love is the result of forgiveness explosions taking place continually. This is God’s wonderful provision for life and happiness.
Remember your position in Christ for “…you are standing there before him with nothing left against you.” Col 1:22 And this is exactly what we are asked to have toward others. “Every person should have a special cemetery lot in which to bury the faults of friends and loved ones.” Anonymous We simply don’t have to live by our own limitations or abilities. Because Jesus’ life is in us He’s done the work already. Let him bring us truly alive, moment by moment experiencing resurrection explosions of forgiveness and love.