“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:1-16 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV
A man was speaking on the radio, and he was very angry. He had just heard the news that another man, who had been a murderer and was in jail, had become a Christian. The man on the radio thought that it wasn’t fair that this other man, who had done some terrible things in his life, would get to go to heaven. He said that he didn’t want to share heaven with a murderer! It wasn’t fair!
Jesus told a story about some people who had gone to work in a man’s vineyard for a day. The ones who were hired the first thing in the morning had agreed to work for the fair day’s pay that any worker would get, but people who were hired later, even the ones who had stood around in the marketplace all day hoping to find work, also got a fair day’s pay at the end of the day. This didn’t seem fair to the first workers. They had worked hard in the hot sun all day, and they didn’t think it was right that people who had worked only one hour got paid the same amount! But the owner of the vineyard explained to them that he had paid them fairly, and that he had chosen to help the men who had been waiting and hoping for work all day. He wanted them to also be able to go home to their families with enough money to take care of them, so he gave them the gift of a fair day’s pay.
Sometimes people who have been Christians for a long time feel angry and jealous of people who only became Christians after many years of going their own way. We often forget that being in God’s kingdom is a gift, and not something that we earn by our good lives. Some of the workers in the vineyard earned a day’s pay by doing a full day’s work, but we can never earn our way into heaven. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and to make it possible to live as the Lord’s people, now and always. This is a gift for everyone, and every day we have in God’s kingdom is a gift. It’s when we forget that, and get tired of going God’s way, that we get angry and upset about the love and forgiveness the Lord gives to others. But when we remember the gift of God’s amazing love for us, we know that this gift is for all people, and our Heavenly Father gives us thankful hearts that know the joy of seeing this gift given to others as well.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your love and mercy. Please give us joy in sharing this gift with others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.