“But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a Denarius? Take what is yours and go your way, but I wish to give to this last man the same as you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” Matthew 20:13-15 (New American Standard Bible)
In my youthful naiveté I was once asked by an inquisitive co-worker at a new job what my starting pay was. With little experience in workplace matters I told the guy. As soon as I did the co-worker’s face went dark and he angrily turned on his heel and hot-footed it to the boss’s office. He faced our boss and angrily demanded to know why he was paying me the same as him when I was new to the job and he had worked there longer. I’m always reminded of this incident when I read this parable.
At the outset this parable told by Jesus does seem unfair. The men who worked the least were paid the same as those who had worked the longest. The story illustrates the chasm between God’s grace and man’s corrupted nature. Instead of seeing the blessing the owner bestowed upon the late comers and applauding his benevolence those who had started working that morning found fault with his generosity.
Jesus was teaching that any matter of award is under God’s Sovereign control. God is the one before whom all accounts will be settled. What will God do with the person who in their final hour accepts Christ? There were only brief minutes for that person to enjoy His saving grace. What kind of reward will He give to the person who had no time to live the Christian life over those who were Christians all their lives? It’s an unanswerable question but I do know He will offer the ideal reward to them and when He does we will say “Isn’t that the perfect and just reward for that person?” In the final accounting it will be the Lord’s will and insight that will carry the greatest weight. His reward comes through grace and not merit. He is indeed generous and gives many gifts to us. What He gives to us is perfect and instead of running to the boss with complaints we can bow and be thankful for His wise and loving beneficence.