Isn’t it ironic that from as early as childhood, we are aware of injustice or what we might consider unfair treatment? I can easily recall each one of my three children at one time or another telling me I was treating them unfairly. To be completely transparent, I too, have felt unjustly or unfairly treated.
Today, I read through Matthew 20, in which Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven (the place where we find pure Justice on display) to a landowner who hires men to work in his field. The landowner goes to town a number of times throughout the day and finds men standing about doing nothing. Each time he goes, he hires more workers, promising them a denarius in return for their service. You may be familiar with the parable and see where I’m heading.
Regardless of the time these workers began in his field, the landowner pays them the same – one denarius. At the end of the day, he pays the workers who came last, first. This is done in the presence of those who spent the entire day toiling in his fields.
Those weary laborers cry out, ‘Injustice! We worked all day!’
The landowner, whom I presume represents the King of Heaven, asks them, how so? He promised them a denarius for a day’s work and is paying them the agreed upon price. They cannot argue, but still their hearts’ cry ‘unfair!’
Then the landowner says some things which strike a chord in me. He says,
“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.” (Matthew 20:15-16)
The first comment regarding the right of the landowner to do whatever he wishes with his money, is not problematic. Although, there are those in our present society who may wish to dispute the fact . They may even be bold enough to ask where he obtained such wealth. (But we are talking about the God of unlimited resources.)
The second and third comments are the ones which seem more poignant. They go against my grain. He apparently sees the hearts of these workers and responds, or are you envious because I am generous? Yes!
And the comment, the last will be first and the first will be last, also seems askew to my sense of justice. Why place those who have done the least, before those who served long hours? And what is the application? How are those who serve God all their lives rewarded in comparison with people who experience a deathbed conversion?
God’s generosity toward all, astounds. It makes no sense. Yet, if we were to see things from God’s perspective, we would think differently. We’re living in a period of Grace. God extends the denarius of eternal life before us all and asks only for faith in the payment His own Son has given. Later in the same chapter, Jesus says,
“whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28)
Don’t you see? True justice looks into our hearts and finds all kinds of evil. We have broken the Laws of God. I know I have lied, taken God’s name in vain, dishonored my parents, coveted. I’ve broken every command in my heart. Without Christ, we are all destined for death. We do not seek God. Our hearts are envious, selfish, judgemental, skewed. We call out ‘unfair,’ but our balances are not calibrated. God’s gracious love for us, placed His Son on the scale. He didn’t alter His system of justice, He paid the debt.
God’s wrath is justly directed toward us. Yet, He is patient. The Bible says, He will not keep His anger forever (Psalm 103:9). God’s patience with us is to bring us to repentance. I don’t claim to understand the ways of God, but His word tells me, Do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
I am grateful to God for His patience with me. There will be consequences for the sins I still commit in this life, but there is no longer condemnation from God. I praise God for deliverance from judgement, and the righteousness of Jesus, given to those who believe.
I pray you will accept His payment, and experience the true freedom which comes from peace with God.