The first thing we all learn about fairness is that it’s not. Fairness is fool’s gold, isn’t it? Nothing is fair. Or it seems that way. There is much which doesn’t seem fair right now in our world, and Jesus tells a great parable to help us get our heads around fairness…
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 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.”
This post is publishing on April 1, April Fool’s Day. How fitting. You can hear the workers now. This has to be a joke. Or, what a joke!?!? You can’t be serious. This vineyard is a joke. No, you’re a joke. Am not. Are too…
I have used the parable of the workers with my kids many, many times over the years. Fairness is a concept that kids get their heads around at an early age. Of course, the first thing we all learn about fairness is that it’s not.
Fairness is not.
It’s not fair. It’s never fair. You’re not being fair. Life isn’t fair. The major concern children have, which incidentally, they learn from their parents, is that nothing is fair.
This isn’t a bad time to be reminded of how fairness works. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much which doesn’t seem fair right now. Some people think it isn’t fair that the wealthy have access to testing in many countries that the average folk (let alone impoverished) do not.
Other people think it is unfair that their freedoms are being limited by health officials or politicians. Some of these folks link this unfairness to the truth about the virus (they’re lying to us). Others believe it is unfair that in many places where the virus has spread, people continue to act like it isn’t contagious, playing, hanging out, etc.
It’s not fair that some people don’t care about those most at risk: the elderly and the immunocompromised.
Of course, when it comes down to it, the parable of the workers isn’t actually about fairness. That was a red herring. The parable is about something more important than fairness. It’s about generosity.
The workers may have dialed in fairness real well, but they missed a proper understanding of generosity. And Jesus is trying to teach us about the generosity, not of the landowner, but of God. Jesus starts with, “For the kingdom of heaven is like…”
This is what God is like. You can talk about fairness all day. God wants to tell you that he will be as generous with you as he is with your neighbour, whether you believe that is fair or not.
God’s generosity is based on him and his character and not based on you and yours. That’s what grace is all about, by the way. We get what we don’t deserve.
So spin this around. Stop talking about what is fair for you. First and foremost, worship God today for the generosity and grace you did not deserve. Then pass on generosity to others to show them that despite life not being fair, generosity rules.