"What's Fair?"- Matthew 20:1-16

This Week’s Core Virtue: Love - I sacrificially and unconditionally love and forgive others.

1 John 4:10-12 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.

The Message of this Passage:

    After promising Peter a great reward for leaving everything behind to follow Him

(Matt. 19:27–30), Jesus tells the parable of the laborers in the vineyard  (vs. 20:1–16). This lesson reminds Peter that even though kingdom servants will receive a great prize, all such gain is entirely due to God’s sovereign grace.

    Day laborers in the first-century Roman world typically gathered in the marketplace where they were hired first thing in the morning to assist in the harvest for the standard wage of one denarius per day. It makes sense for Jesus to draw upon these facts when He tells the story in today’s passage because the disciples would be familiar with the plight of the day laborer. That the master hires workers right up to the end of the workday, however, is unusual. People typically worked from six a.m. to six p.m. and the eleventh-hour hire would be made at around five o’clock. The fact that no one else has yet hired these workers implies that they probably weren’t the hardest or the best workers. Only a gracious and generous owner would hire them.

When the time comes to pay the workers, those who worked only an hour received the same as those who worked all day. Which upset those who had put in a full day of work. But they really had no cause to complain.  Commenting on this passage Matthew Henry wrote, “God is a debtor to no man.” Our Lord has the sovereign right to do as He wills. Though God’s grace may fall disproportionately on those who to us seem to be the least deserving, no one can accuse Him of giving less than what He has promised.

    The point here is only that God, by grace alone, makes all believers citizens of His kingdom regardless of their history.  No one deserve His grace, and we must never think that He owes something, nor should we be resentful when those who we think don’t deserve the same as we do because of the life they have lived also find God’s grace.

For Discussion:

  • What is your reaction to the story? Are you indifferent? Angry? Why?

  • Imagine you were one of the early risers. How would you feel at first when the latecomers were given a day’s wage?

  • How would you feel later on when you were paid the same thing?

  • Suppose you were one of the latecomers? How did you feel about the situation?

  • What do you think he meant by the phrase, “Many that are last shall be first, and the first last?”

  • How would you apply this story to your life?

  • Define the term “grace” in your own words. How is it different than “fair”?

  • If God treated us fairly, what would we get from Him? See Romans 3:23 and Ephesians 5:5-6.

  • What is required of us to receive God’s grace? See John 1:12; 3:16;

  • Is there a time in your life when it felt that God wasn’t being fair?

  • What is our human concept of fairness all about?

  • Does our reward change based on the level of the sin? Romans 3:19-20, 6:23

  • Does our reward change based on the level of our righteousness?

  • What happens to our thought process when we put a value on righteousness? Isaiah 64:6

  • What does God say about grumbling? Luke 5:30-311 Corinthians 10:9-10Philippians 2:14-15

  • Was this some kind of new teaching that Jesus was giving them? Deuteronomy 24:14-15

All sin makes us guilty before the Lord, but some sins are worse than others in their impact on people and in the way they violate God’s will. We might think it strange that our Father calls the most notoriously wicked people to be His children, but, as Calvin says, “God is not limited to any person, but calls freely whomsoever He pleases, and bestows on those who are called whatever rewards He thinks fit.”