This morning while breakfast was cooking and the children were all playing quietly, I took the opportunity to read through another chapter of “Transforming Grace,” by Jerry Bridges. He made a very intriguing point that the Lord used to stir up some gratefulness in my heart and I pray that God may use it to encourage gratefulness in your hearts as well.
The thoughts that follow are reflections on the parable of the of the “Laborers in the Vineyard,” from Matt. 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. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 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.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Isn’t it our first reaction to read this and feel that it was unfair for those who worked only an hour to be paid the same as those who worked all day?
Why do we think this is unfair, though?
It’s because we identify ourselves with the one who labored all day, when we are really the ones desperately in need of God’s underserved favor and generosity.
I definitely read this parable, automatically associating myself with the one who was working hard, and I didn’t even see it until Bridges pointed out my faulty perspective. And suddenly I was more deeply grateful for God’s grace, completely undeserved.
It is easy to look around and compare ourselves to others, thinking we are serving God more faithfully than most. But the truth is, we should only be comparing ourselves to Jesus Christ, and realizing we fall woefully short of God’s standard. We can do nothing to merit God’s favor. His gift of salvation and faith to his people is complete generosity. So, I am thankful today for the reminder to keep myself in the proper perspective—a sinner in need of God’s grace—and I am grateful for a God who is more far generous than I can imagine.