"Life is just not fair!"
Have you ever heard these words before? Maybe if you are like me, you've heard them come from your own mouth a time or two. Or maybe you've heard this from your child and had to give him or her the ol' "you're right so get over it" speech (or a variation of it) that I heard from my mom.
I can't explain or really understand why some people have good lots in life while others struggle merely to survive. Why some have the touch that makes most everything turn to gold while still others seem to be born losers. Why was I born in a country at a time where I don't have to struggle for my rights to vote, have a career or the freedom to express myself even if I'm critical of my own government and leaders? I live in a nation where I can worship God freely, in a church and read my Bible without having to look over my shoulder to see if the police are coming to take it away because they hate what I believe God is saying to me.
I've read stories out of China where people in rural areas hide their Bibles because authorities there want to confiscate and burn these illegal books and imprison those who have them! I can't imagine such an existence because I've always had freedom. Likely I've even taken this freedom for granted wrongly believing it's the way most people in the world live.
Then I hear from my friends in Syria who can't legally access certain websites like Facebook, Blogger (this blog!!), YouTube and Amazon because that country wants to control its people or something!
Back to fairness, I was reading this passage in Matthew 20 and wanted to ask to whom you could most relate in these verses and what your thoughts were on this parable that Jesus told concerning what the kingdom of heaven is like.
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius [the usual daily wage for a day laborer] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Did you find yourself identifying with the workers who had been slaving away in the hot sun all day thinking they should have received more than those who had only worked one hour? "It's not fair! We worked all day and these guys only worked an hour and you are paying them the same!" Or were you OK with being paid the exact same since you agreed upon the usual daily wage and that is what your employee paid? It wasn't as if he broke his promise, right?
Who will admit to being envious because the employee was generous and paid those who worked only 1 hour the same as those working 8 or 10 or 12? Don't you think the employee was unfair for having paid everyone the same when some worked much harder and longer than others?
How does this parable relate to the kingdom of heaven since this is what Jesus said the whole point of it was? And what does "so the last will be first, and the first will be last" mean?
What lessons can we learn from this parable? What "lessons" do you think the Chinese person who has to hide his faith might know from his situation that I might not know as one who has taken these freedoms for granted? Do you see how in some ways he may have the advantage? I daresay it makes a stronger believer if one realizes confiscation of property, torture and imprisonment are at stake for faith in Jesus Christ as opposed to one like me who believes in a nation that is favorable to Jesus. Adversity tends to make stronger - more dedicated - believers. I admire my brothers and sisters in Christ who have faith in spite of opposition and unfairness.
Do you agree with how I titled this post? Do you believe this parable demonstrates the "unfairness" of God? Do you agree that His "unfairness" can be a good thing? If you don't like the title, how would you rephrase it?
Thoughts on any of this?