“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.’ The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘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 heart of the day.’” | Matthew 20:8-12
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Lately, I have been digesting the parables of Jesus – stories told by Jesus to reveal the truths of the Kingdom of God to believers – and unpacking them a little. I have read this parable many times and heard numerous sermons providing different perspectives. More recently, I imagined myself as a character within the parable and asked myself the question, “who would I be?” As I realised that honestly, I would likely be one of the workers who started at the beginning of the day and grumbled about equal pay with those who began at the end of the day, I felt convicted. I reflected on the times I have complained about being compensated in the same amount as others who perhaps don’t pull their weight as much. I reflected on how, as a seasoned Christian (who has previously experienced many stagnant years in my faith), I have watched new Christians experience rapid acceleration in their faith and giftings and momentarily thought “this isn’t fair”. Now if I shared these feelings with a non-Christian, they would probably see reasonable grounds for my reactions to these situations, concur with my thoughts and I would walk away from the conversation feeling justified.
It’s easy to get caught up in the same attitudes as everyone else, particularly if we are engaged in “secular” vocations and we're surrounded with it on a daily basis. There is an increasing emphasis on equality in our society – gender, race, age, sexual orientation. You name it and it probably has an equality movement attached to it. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, but I think where we’ve got it wrong is the extent to which we’ve pushed these views. Rather than equality, we pursue self-entitlement. Rather than empowering the oppressed, we elevate ourselves above others. When you dig deep, these causes have really become about ourselves, to create a perception that we are loving and accepting of everyone. When we talk about equality, we’re really thinking “how do I ensure that I am not worse off than others around me?”
In the workplace, I hear words such as “fairness”, “equity” and “unbiased” very often. It’s become the basis upon which most decisions are made, for fear of offending someone. On the other hand, there is this belief that the harder you work, the more you will receive. So you work hard. Then you reach the end of the year and are commended with a pay rise of nil and a bonus of nada. You worked your butt off all year and this is how they repay you?!
Reflecting on my heart position in response to this parable, I knew I needed to allow God to minister to my heart about what this parable meant for me personally. As He did, He revealed that this parable spoke to me loudest about Kingdom principles. It challenged me, as a citizen of heaven, to reflect on my mindset and to ask myself the question – is my thought life aligned with the Kingdom of God or with the world?
As children of God, I believe that although our greatest commission is winning souls and making disciples, it isn’t our greatest challenge. Our greatest challenge, in my view, is being in the world but not of the world.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” | Romans 12:2
Over the years, I have learned (at times the hard way) to shift my attitudes to align with the Word of God rather than the words of the world.
You may not be compensated adequately by the world’s standard but have you considered the eternal impact you’re making for the Kingdom, being exactly where God has positioned you to be? You may not see the reward now but you will see it in heaven.
“So the last will be first and the first will be last." Matthew 20:16