God’s Brand of Justice

Matthew 20: 1-16
Jgs 9:6-15/Ps 21:2-7

What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Don’t I have the right to do as I please with my money? Why be envious of my generosity?
(Matthew 20:14-15)

Though unfair at first it may seem,
Who can ever fathom God’s ways?
Not by merits are we redeemed,
But only by His loving grace.

A landowner went out to hire workers for his vineyard. A just salary of one silver coin was agreed upon with the hired laborers. In the course of the day, the landowner decided to hire additional laborers 4 times at different hours of the day. At the end of the day, he instructed his manager to pay all of the laborers the same rate, beginning with the last and ending with the first. Those who toiled longest expected to receive more, and grumbled when they received the same pay as those who worked less. “These last hardly worked an hour, yet you have treated them the same as us who have endured the day’s burden and heat.” But the owner replied, “Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on one silver coin a day? Don’t I have the right to do as I please with my money? Why be envious of my generosity?”

Reflection

The laborers who grumbled failed to appreciate the generosity of their employer and show gratitude for their livelihood because they had a misplaced sense of justice. Who knows the landowner might have given them extra pay when they were paid last if they had not grumbled but expressed their gratitude and appreciation instead?

We cannot compare the world’s standard of fairness to God’s brand of justice. This is evident in the benevolent landowner who decided that a living wage must be paid his workers not so much for the length of time rendered, but more importantly for them to be able to support their family’s needs in a way consistent with human dignity.

In this parable, the landowner clearly represents God, and the vineyard as His kingdom. The twin lessons that our Lord wants to impart here is that 1) salvation does not come in different degrees, but is the same for all men; and 2) it is by God’s grace that His workers are rewarded, just as it is by grace that we serve Him in the first place. The question is not how God qualifies or rewards those who work for His kingdom, but how we respond to the challenge to serve Him when His invitation comes. We must all be ready to grasp the opportunity for service, and rejoice in whatever reward is forthcoming. God alone knows the value of every individual’s service for His kingdom. But we can rest assured that when the rewards come from our gracious Lord, they will not only be just, but generous.

Try Me in this, says the Lord of hosts: if I do not open the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessings upon you without measure (Mal. 3:10). Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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