By: Rev. Dr. Scott Sommerfeld
“It’s not fair!” is the response from the workers who put in twelve hours of work and got the same wage as the workers who only worked one hour. What they were complaining about is “Those guys got more than they deserved!” That is the crux of the matter in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Equal pay for unequal work. Remember the parable was told to teach something about the kingdom of heaven—about the way that God operates. It might be that the way God operates is different than the way the world operates.
Some times we do wish that God would be fair. That we would get what we deserve. But in the Lenten season we are reminded that getting what is deserved is not God’s way. Consider the repentant thief on the cross who was promised “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) He got all of heaven, but did no faithful kingdom service after coming to a faith relationship with Jesus. He gets the same heaven as St. Paul who served greatly and suffered greatly for the name of Jesus. That thief gets the same heaven that Billy Graham entered last month. That just doesn’t seem fair. That’s how God is. He favors grace above fairness. Grace to those who don’t deserve it.
When it comes right down to it—every person can be glad that God is a God of grace and favors grace above fairness. Think about it. What every person really deserves and has “earned” is judgment and condemnation. The Bible is clear “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) This death that is mentioned is not merely the cessation of bodily activities but also includes separation from God—a lasting spiritual death. But thanks be to God—He gives eternal life as a gift—earned by Christ Jesus our Lord.
That brings us back to God’s ultimate act of grace based on Jesus’ ultimate experience of what is Not Fair. The One who knew no sin became sin for us. If you have ever felt that life was “not fair” you are not alone. But no one has experienced injustice like holy, sinless Jesus who was rejected, ridiculed, tortured and put to death as His “pay” at the end of the day on Good Friday. He gets what we deserve. And that is God’s way. So that you can have life without end—by God’s grace—as God’s gift—something more and better that you could ever earn or deserve. And that is God’s way. The way of grace.