MATTHEW 20:9-12: “The workers who were hired about five o’clock came. Each received the usual day’s pay. So when those who were hired first came, they expected to receive more. But each of them also received the usual day’s pay. “When they received it, they began to complain about the owner. ‘These people who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said. ‘You have paid them the same as us. We have done most of the work and have been in the hot sun all day.’” (NIRV)
OBSERVATION: Is life fair? Is life supposed to be fair? This is a very current and relevant discussion, and one that the parable of the laborers speaks to. The concept of what is fair has changed in recent days. It is misunderstood today, as it was among the laborers who were hired first. The word fair means – “in accordance with the rules or standards, legitimate”. However, we have changed the meaning of this word to mean – “in accordance with others, the same.”
The laborers were upset because they had worked all day and received the same pay that someone who had only worked one hour received. “That’s not fair!”, they cried. They should have received more. That would have been the “fair” thing to do. Yet, was it really unfair? Was it really not in accordance with the rules and standards of the one who had hired them? Listen to his words.
- “”The owner answered one of them. ‘Friend,’ he said, ‘I’m being fair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for the usual day’s pay? Take your money and go. I want to give the ones I hired last the same pay I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Do you feel cheated because I gave so freely to the others?’” Matthew 20:13-15 NIRV
The owner was doing exactly what he had agreed with them to do. It was fully in his power, and in accordance with the rules and standards he had established, to do what he pleased with anyone he hired. The owner was fair in giving to each one the amount he agreed to pay them when he hired them. Then what was the problem? Why did the workers who were hired first cry – “Unfair!”?
The problem in our culture today, and the problem of the workers in this parable, is they began to compare themselves with others. If we always live our life comparing ourselves to others we will always find something we feel is unfair. Why do they seem to always get the breaks in life? Why did he get the promotion, and not me? Why am I struggling, while they always seem to be living on easy street?
All of these questions come from a misguided perspective. Each one of us has a call in life to fulfill. It is as unique as our fingerprints. God has gifted us with everything we need to fulfill this call. And He asks us only to be faithful. The Lord does not compare us with anyone else, and neither should we. Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
- “I don’t dare to compare myself with those who praise themselves. I’m not that kind of person. They measure themselves by themselves. They compare themselves with themselves. When they do that, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12 NIRV
The key to joy in life is to work hard, and keep your focus on the pathway the Lord has given you to follow. It is not about what is fair, it is all about what is provided. The workers should have received their wages with thankfulness. When God extends mercy and grace upon someone else, we should rejoice with them – for He has also extended mercy and grace upon us. When I take my eyes off of others, and focus on my own calling, I enter into the joy of the destiny the Lord has provided for my life.
Lord, thank you for the pathway you have placed me on. Thank you for the strength today to do the work that is at hand. May I be found faithful. May I be found thankful. May I be found walking in Your joy that abides, as I remember Your great mercy and grace.
In Jesus Name!