our tit-for-tat world of ungrace

0V4MVUGT47“I want people to get what they deserve—nothing more, nothing less.”

Philip Yancey in What’s so amazing About Grace?

Talk about a problematic parable:
Matthew 20: 1-16.

Jesus tells about a vineyard owner who hires people to work for the day in his vineyard. They set to work diligently in the blazing sun. Meanwhile, the owner goes out and hires more people at noon, three, and five.

At the end of the 12-hour day, the vineyard owner pays everyone a denarius. Those who worked longer protested, “Hey, that’s not fair! I worked all day—I should be paid more than those slugs who just worked a few hours.”

The owner calmly answers, “I paid you what we agreed on. Take your pay and go. If I want to be generous with my own money, I will be.”

Who do you identify with in this parable? For those of us who were raised in the cause-and-effect world of “you get what you work for,” this parable makes us cringe. Think of all  of the motivational sayings we hear:

  • No pain, no gain.
  • I have rights…
  • The early bird gets the worm.
  • Hard work beats talent when talents doesn’t work hard.
  • Work hard and be proud of what you achieve.
  • Greatness is earned, never awarded.
  • Hard work pays off.

That’s what we expect, and it starts in childhood. How many sibling rivalries include, “That’s not fair!”

But God’s grace is not about what’s fair, it’s about what He generously offers. It’s not about assigning a number to our good thoughts/words/deeds and bad thoughts/words/deeds to see if we can manage to stay in the positive column. It’s not a mathematical, economic  balanced equation—which is a good thing because none of us would be able to achieve a positive balance.

As Philip Yancey states in What’s so Amazing About Grace: 

“Grace cannot be reduced to generally accepted accounting principles. In the bottom-line realm of ungrace, some workers deserve more than others; in the realm of grace the word deserve does not even apply.

Thank you, Lord, for your unbounded, unending grace.

Like videos better than words? Check out this idea here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrLzYw6ULYw

 

 

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