Unfair

“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 five in the afternoon 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 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, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one 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?’

Matthew 20:8-15

In the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, Jesus is trying to teach us about what the Kingdom of God is like. He’s trying to show us a different understanding of justice, grace and mercy. If Jesus were to stand up and tell this story today, He would surely offend our American sense of justice and righteous indignation.

This is the scandal of grace. The principles of God’s grace and generosity do not operate on principles of justice. Jesus was trying to reorient the people’s definition of “fairness” toward a gospel of grace rather than a gospel of justice.

God desires to be generous with His grace. Those who get saved at the final moments of their life will inherit eternal life just as those who have been faithful followers of Jesus their whole life. We see this with the criminal on the cross who was hanging next to Jesus (Luke 23:42-43). We see this with the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). God loves to be generous with His grace.

Jesus makes it clear that God is not being “unfair”(verse 13). Everyone got what they agreed to. If we read “injustice” into this parable then we have a different definition of justice than God, and it is we who need to adjust, not Him. The real problem that this parable exposes is not God’s sense of grace or justice, but our sense of righteous indignation.

When you read this parable, who did you identify with? Were you celebrating God’s grace and mercy with the workers who got hired in the last hour of the day and got a full day’s wage? Or were you identifying with the workers who had worked all day and got the same thing as the guy who only worked an hour?

This parable exposes our heart. Who do we think we are? Are we the one who “earned more” and should have gotten more? Or are we the one who has graciously been saved by unmerited mercy and the extreme generosity of God?

Let me give you a hint. We ALL are the workers who only worked an hour. This parable was designed to expose the unhealthy sense of entitlement that rises up in us all. We like to call it “justice” but this parable exposes it for what it is–self-righteousness.

Let this parable sit with you. Let it bother you. And then let it return you to gratitude for the extreme grace the Father has show us through His Son Jesus.

Lifestyle of Forgiveness

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22

We will all sin from time to time, but that does not mean we have to live a lifestyle of sin. A person may drink too much one night. That’s an action of sin. But when someone gets drunk night after night, that is a lifestyle of sin. When someone sleeps around, that is a lifestyle of sin. When someone intentionally and continuously embezzles money, that is a lifestyle of sin. It’s not a stumble or slip up, but instead a pattern of behavior that flows out of a heart that is unhealed.

This distinction is important because it is in the areas of chronic sin where the demonic is most likely to enter our lives. These are the areas where demons set up camp in our heart, mind, and body and begin to torment us. One of the most overlooked chronic sins in the Church is a lifestyle of unforgiveness. Jesus makes it clear that we are not just called to forgive a few times. As those who have been forgiven of all of our sin by the grace and mercy of God, we are to live a lifestyle of forgiveness.

To drive this point home, Jesus tells the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. A man who owed the king 10,000 bags of gold could not repay it, and yet the king forgave the entire debt. But when that man found a guy who owed him 100 silver coins, a much smaller debt than the one he was forgiven, the man refused to let it go. The man choked the guy and threw him in prison until the debt was repaid.

But when the king found about about this, the king brought the man in and said:

‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

Matthew 18:32-34

The man was shown mercy but didn’t show others mercy. The man was given total forgiveness but wasn’t willing to forgive his fellow servant. So the king enacted the biblical principle found in Luke 6:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Luke 6:37-38

The man had the opportunity to measure with grace, mercy and forgiveness. Instead, the man measured with justice. Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. So the king measured him with the measure that he himself used. And justice demanded that the man be thrown into prison until he could repay the debt.

Another interesting plot twist in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant is that the jailers tortured the man. The lesson is clear. A lifestyle of unforgiveness leads to a tormented life. Unforgiveness becomes a super-highway for the demonic to set up camp in our life and bring all manner of torment to our hearts, minds, and bodies.

Chronic sin often leads to chronic problems. Chronic unforgiveness leads to chronic problems in our mental health, emotional well-being, physical health, and relational intimacy with others. Forgiving those who have hurt us is the quickest way to kick the enemy out of our life and restore flourishing to areas of our life that have been shut down for years.

Who do you need to forgive?

Pray this:
In the name of Jesus, I choose to forgive as I have been forgiven. I now choose to forgive _____________. I release any right I have retained to bring revenge. I release them from my hands and place them into Your hands, Jesus, my Just Judge. I break every curse I have sent to them and call forth a blessing to them instead. Thank you for the grace to forgive and the power to live in freedom. 

What is grace?

For anyone who is a follower of Jesus, this is our story:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live…But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5

Yet, many of us misunderstand grace. Grace is not just being washed clean of sin. That is forgiveness. Grace empowers us to do what we couldn’t otherwise do. Grace is the divine enablement of God.

If we were a car, grace would not be the windshield wiper fluid dispensed whenever some sin has made our windshield unclean and our vision obstructed. That’s forgiveness. Grace is the gasoline in the car! Mercy is God’s passion to rebuild and rehab broken-down cars instead of tossing them into the junkyard.

As Dallas Willard says, “You will consume much more grace by leading a holy life than you will by sinning, because every holy act you do will have to be upheld by the grace of God.” Using the car analogy, a car that is in the shop all the time uses less gasoline than a car that is constantly on the move accomplishing the mission for which it was intended.

A life of holiness is a life in continual dependence upon grace. When Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast”(Ephesians 2:8-9), he is saying, “For it is by gas that the car goes, through the turning of the ignition, and this is not your doing. You didn’t earn the gas; you didn’t put the gas in the car; you simply turned the key or pressed the button. God gave you the gas that made it go.”

Paul continues in the next verse, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”(Ephesians 2:10), which is like saying, “For we are God’s restored car, rebuilt from the ground up, not in order to sit idling in a garage, but to go driving on the highways and byways transporting people back to God.”