I want to ask you a question! Is God fair? Is He fair in His judgements? Is He fair in His dealings with creation? Is He fair when dealing with your sin? Is He fair in who He saves? Is He fair in your life struggles? Is He fair at all? These are legitimate questions that we need to answer! Is God fair? Deep down inside, we all have moments like this…..thinking that God isn’t fair when it comes to your life, as it compares to the person beside you! This usually doesn’t start until we take our eyes off the prize and begin to look sideways at those around us. My neighbor, friend, co-worker, peer has a bigger house, nicer TV, Xbox, PS3, an IPhone, more toys, nicer clothes, better job, better education, more friends, more popular with the community, a better husband or wife, better children, happier life, they are more spiritual, serves more….and the list is endless. Let’s be serious! We all have moment s of dissatisfaction as it compares to others! That’s our sinful nature. We see example after example of this behaviour throughout scripture. People dissatisfied with how God is dealing with themselves and others.
Here are some examples.....Cain over his brother Abel, Joseph’s brothers, Jonah with people of Nineveh, The Pharisee’s over Jesus, The world over Christians, Christians over Christians. An interesting story I came across that spoke about how we sometimes look at each other! “A company chartered a ship for its top sales people. When they arrived at the dock, they swarmed aboard and headed for their cabins. A minute later one salesman was on deck demanding to see the Captain. One of the officers asked if he could help. "My friend has a much better cabin!" the salesman said. "I did as good a job as he did and I want a cabin just like his." "Sir," the officer replied, "The cabins are identical." "Yeah," said the man, "but his cabin looks out on the ocean and my cabin looks out on this old dock." The man had become so absorbed with playing the comparison game that he became blind to the obvious-the ship would soon be on the ocean and all the views would be the same.”
Think about it! Have you done this? We have all been guilty of this at some point time in life. Have you ever noticed that we’re perfectly content with what we have, until we compare what we have with what someone else has? Again the question comes back to us! Is God fair?Think about that question when it comes to salvation. We all know a person whether it’s locally or globally…..We always cast judgement with these words “How could a holy and sovereign God save a person like that!” Especially a person who does what you do and sometimes better at it then you. The world see’s God as unfair but the Bible proves that He is just, kind and love suffering for His creation. Ezekiel penned these words “"Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?” Eze 18:25. Man’s ways are subjective; God’s ways are governed by a self-imposed law, which makes all consistent and harmonious. We are the ones who’re unfair…because we see others through the glasses of a self-righteous sinner. John MacArthur said “when men doubt the justice and fairness of God, it is always because of their own perverted views of justice and of Him.”
We come to a passage where Jesus addresses this issue in a parable He told His disciples after telling them of their reward because they followed after Him. This is a powerful example of what we do sometimes towards one another and to others! I find this parable very convicting and refreshing at the same time and I’ll explain what I mean later. But first we need to understand who Jesus is addressing here in the story! We see a Landowner which represents [God himself]. We see an array of workers at different times of the day getting work [you and me]. We see a flicker in to the spiritual realm where God is sovereign in righteousness and grace. We see a story that warns us that comparison distracts us from the grace that we have received. We see a story that illustrates a Heavenly truth. When it comes to God’s grace, it has nothing to do with our own merit as we see as the overall summary of this parable. He makes that point crystal clear, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”(v16). The men that thought they worked the 11 hours would receive more than they agreed too, because they saw the master give the same amount they agreed to for only working one hour. (v8-v10). But they were wrong? (v13-v14). John MacArthur spoke about these men in his commentary on Matthew “Jealousy and envy are not based on reason but on selfishness. The charge of unfairness was not grounded in love for justice but in the selfish assumption that extra pay they wanted was pay they deserved.” The same rule or principle can be applies to God’s children! Many people considered first in the Lord's work will be revealed at the judgment as last and lost. I truly believe at the Day of Judgment, there will be many surprises for those who claim to know the Son of God. This parable is Jesus' way of responding to Peter's question back in Matthew 19:27. “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us? Jesus told the disciples that their sacrifices will be wonderfully rewarded [ Matthew 19:28-29]. But be very careful (Matthew 19:30)....here’s the warning to us! Do not pride yourselves in your sacrifices. We were talking about this with our girls yesterday! Ps 51:16-17 “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” If you look down on people who seem to have made less sacrifice than you, it can lead you to awful judgment of others. We as believers should know both the promises and the dangers of Christian work
The bible says “ALL BELIEVERS” will receive ……..The Crown of Life…….Rev 2:10 “….Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” The Crown of Righteousness…….2 Tim 4:8 “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” The Crown of Glory……..1 Peter 5:4 “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” These are future blessing, not present blessing! These promises can easily become clouded in our life, if we look at others sideways, by comparing ourselves with others. [Whether its 11 hours, 8 hours, or 1 hour]. This is what this parable is addressing! The promise of abundant reward for faithful service and the danger of severe judgment for proud self-righteous behaviour. This parable shows the amazing grace of God who lifts those who are considered last, the less fruitful people and the spiritual latecomers, into places of honor. Remember the thief on the cross? He didn’t have much time to get to find a church, attend prayer meetings, tithe, evangelize or study himself approved. But Jesus spoke these beautiful words to sinner after he asked "…..Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And He said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:42-43. The Lord looked upon this sinner as His child, as He does me and you who have a home church, who go to prayer meetings, tithe, evangelize and study His precious word. God is always fair and generous! If you think otherwise! Jesus said you will be “last” The Lord invites them into his field at various hours, even at the latest possible hour, and pays them as though they had done a full day's work. That’s the grace of the gospel! “Nothing in my hands I bring, simple to the cross I cling”Jesus was telling the disciples not to feel too superior when they compare themselves to people like the rich young ruler who decided not to follow Jesus. As one pastor said “Today, this warning can apply to mainline churches which despise newer kinds of churches, to growing churches that look down on seemingly slower churches, to long-time church members who ignore newcomers, to strong Christians who question the dedication of weaker Christians, to believers who are too conscious of their being in God's work and who think demeaningly of those who are not involved in any ministry.” Salvation is equal to all born again Christians! Christians, who have spent a life of ease and spiritual idleness, have the same eternal salvation as those who suffer a martyr’s death. The immature, weak, disobedient at times Christian has the same position in the Kingdom of God, as those who are mature, self-giving and super spiritual.
So what do we learn from this parable? The Lord is sovereign and He will pay and do as He pleases. The Lord is always fair in His dealings whether you think He is or not. The Lord is gracious and kind to all His children [meaning the children of God]
So how do I apply this parable or how should I respond to this? We should be thankful for what he gives us…….not what others get! We are not to be proud of our service, expecting we deserve something more than those around us. We are to serve Him faithfully whether its 11 hours, 8 hours, or 1 hour. Remember! God choosing us to work at all in His vineyard is enough to make a person stop and say “thank you Lord for calling me”
The question is! Is God fair? Answer Yes …..God is always good! The workers in this story are way more important than the work. Each and every one of us is way too important to God. That’s the beauty of the gospel. You’re more important to a holy God and your worth is found in Christ. You’re more important to a holy God, so stop looking at others and comparing yourself to them. Our only freedom is this!.................is to stop playing the game of looking sideways. This parable is our attitude adjustment! We don’t need to compare ourselves what others have, to what we don’t have. God loves us for who we are not for what we have accomplished. Once we stop putting our accomplishments and possessions alongside others, we are then free to be grateful for how God has been generous to us. The Apostle Paul said it best “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” Phil 4:11
We are free to rejoice and give thanks for what we have, not grumble, and complain for what we do not have. We can also be free to give and to serve. We no long have a reason to horde or withhold or spend time on making more money. We can spend time serving others out of our great abundance of the heart through Christ. Then and only then at the end of our lives as we lay our heads on our pillow for the final time we can rejoice and give thanks for what God has given. As Jesus said to Peter……"…..If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!....." John 21:22-23.................So! Stop looking sideways and follow Jesus!