When Jesus told His disciples the parable of the workers in the vineyard, He contrasted man’s perception of fairness with God’s reality of grace. After agreeing with the vineyard owner’s offer of a denarius a day for their wages, the laborers hired in the morning set out to work. During the rest of the day the owner continued to hire workers and promised “whatever is right you will receive.”
Finally, at the end of the day the vineyard owner settled up with all the laborers, from those hired at the eleventh hour to the workers hired as the sun came up. Each worker got paid precisely one denarius. Of course, the workers who labored all day grumbled about the vineyard owner’s lack of fairness. “‘But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen’” (Matthew 20:13-16 NIV®).
Another example of life’s lack of fairness is Job’s story. I love the book of Job, not only because it was the story that opened my eyes to God’s lordship and the insidiousness of my own pride, but because of Job’s unshakable faith in the Almighty’s sovereignty, despite the undeniable unfairness of his situation. Even in the midst of horrendous tangible and physical loss, Job refused to deny God. Instead, he worshipped Him.
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
—Job 1:20-22 NIV®
And as a consequence, Job’s story became a timeless testament to perseverance and extreme faith. “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11 NIV®).
Life’s not fair, but God always is. It’s called grace. And isn’t that the point of Christianity? Isn’t grace the evidence of God’s work in this world and in our lives? Is it fair that Jesus, an innocent man tempted in all ways but without sin, allowed Himself to be arrested, tortured and hung from a cross to die a criminal’s death for the redemption of mankind? Jesus experienced the ultimate in unfairness, yet by His sacrifice He brought about the New Covenant, the permanent covenant. And as a result, we have the opportunity to live under God’s mighty hand of grace.
In this world, bad things will happen to good people and good things will happen to bad people. Is it fair? Nope, not at all. But through God’s grace, all that unfairness will be resolved into something good, something, in fact, spectacular. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV®). Life may not be fair, but in the end, it will be perfect. Just like my bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream topped with a whole biscotti. What do you think about that, Hannah?
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes