Summary: The scenarios we've been looking at over the past few weeks seem unfair on the surface but when we examined them we realized that God was not being unfair. As we close out the series, we'll look at Jesus' parable of the workers in the vineyard.
"IT'S NOT FAIR!" (part four)
We looked at Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the garden for one act of disobedience. We looked at the story of Job losing everything despite being upright and blameless. We saw how the prophet suffered death even though he was tricked by a lying prophet. We saw how Moses was not allowed to go to the promised land because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it as he was commanded.
And last week we looked at Uzzah being struck dead for touching the ark of the covenant when it started to topple. These scenarios seem unfair on the surface but when we examined them we realized that God was not being unfair. As we close out the series, we'll look at Jesus' parable of the workers in the vineyard.
1) "No fair, I was here all day!"
Matt. 20:1-16, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ “ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ “
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ “The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.
When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Talk about 'no fair'! I'm sure any of us would feel the same way if we were in this situation. "I worked 12 hours and got paid the same as the guy who worked only one hour? Are you serious? No fair! This is an outrage! I'm calling the labor board. Hoffa's gonna hear about this."
"I am not being unfair to you." How is he not being unfair? He paid the worker what he agreed to work for. There was nothing underhanded going on. He offered the worker a fair wage and the worker accepted. He didn't have to agree to the terms but he did. He wasn't taken advantage of.
Some employers take advantage of people when they're desperate and pay them less-cheap labor. But that's not what's going on here. A denarius was the typical wage for a day's work. "Those other guys didn't work a full day but they still got a full day's pay. That's not fair to the ones who worked all day!" Again, the employer is allowed to do what he wants with his money; he wasn't being unfair to anyone. Granted, he was being more generous to the ones hired later but he has the right to do that.
And notice we don't see the employer explaining himself to the first workers. He doesn't go on to explain why he chose to do what he did; he just states that he wasn't being unfair. God doesn't owe us an explanation for why he does what he does. We owe him the refusal to cry 'unfair' and charge him with wrongdoing. We owe him the humility to conclude that he is wise and loving and that he has a perfect reason for everything he does.
The main problem with the workers is seen in vs. 10-they expected to be paid more. Their expectation wasn't based in a promise but an assumption. That can get us in trouble too. When we have unwarranted expectations we will feel cheated when they're unmet. When we expect people to act a certain way based on what we think they should do, we are setting ourselves up for a potential letdown.