Matthew 20: 1-15 (MSG)
“God’s kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.
“Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went.
“He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, ‘Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?’ “They said, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “He told them to go to work in his vineyard.
“When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, ‘Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.’
“Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager,
‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’ “He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’
About a year ago, I read this scripture for the first time and I felt outraged on behalf of the workers who started first. It puzzled me, I just could not understand it.
Interestingly, a year later, I understand completely. It’s about grace. The shocking, absurd, outrageous, irrational grace of God.
I tried so hard to understand this parable, this grace with my flawed human thinking, but it made no sense.
Do you see what happened there? Put yourself in the shoes of the guy who started working early in the morning, let’s say 5 am. You’ve worked, and sweated, and pushed, and heaved. And some other guys, they came in and joined you at 5PM. A whole 12 hours later. You’ve probably already even done the very hard part. And at the end of the day, you’re given the same wage; 1 dollar each.
Wow. That makes no sense. But you know what? That’s okay because grace does not make sense.
There’s something else. The estate manager went out to look for more workers at 5PM. He found some men standing about, and he asked them why they were standing about.
The reply that came was
Because no one hired us. (Matthew 20:7)
So they were the castaways. The unwanted ones. Everyone else had been hired but not these ones. They probably weren’t qualified enough for the job. They probably weren’t strong enough. I mean, the whole town probably knew them as the “no-gooders”. They just weren’t good enough.
Yet still, the owner of the vineyard, a man I’d love to call Grace comes in.
Mr. Grace comes in and says you might not have any qualifications but I [Mr Grace] will qualify you.
You might not be strong enough but I [Mr Grace] will strengthen you.
Others might have rejected you, but I [Mr Grace] have chosen you.
They think you’re not good enough, but I [Mr Grace] will perfect you.
Oh, and at the end of it all, I will give you a good and perfect reward; the eternal crown of life.
That sweet, perfect, irrational but infinite grace of God. The grace that I believe is beyond our human comprehension. You don’t have to understand it. Just believe, and accept it.
The grace of God is extending His arm to you today, saying it does not matter how much of a 5pm worker you are. The Grace of God is bigger than any mistakes, bigger than any addictions, bigger than troubles, bigger than your problems, bigger than your secret sins. The Grace of God is sufficient. Accept the grace of God today.
Dear Lord Jesus, as undeserving of your grace as I am, I ask for it today. I ask that you shower me with your infinite, unending grace. I ask that your grace shall strengthen me. I ask that your grace shall perfect my weaknesses. I pray that by your grace, I will be given the strength to walk in your love. By your grace, Lord, may I daily become more like you. In Jesus’ powerful name, Amen.