“For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder 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 market place; 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 steward, ‘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 the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, 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 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.”
“For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.”
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
I continually marvel at – and am comforted to see – how God shows us that His love and compassion is far greater than our own. The parable of the householder and the laborers is a classic example of this, for God’s ways are higher than our ways. We see the householder (God) actively going out through the day, gathering laborers to work in his vineyard even long after the normal daily hiring would have been done. He not only hires them at the last hour but he pays them all the same wage at the end of the day. If we continue the analogy, the new believer (labourer) will receive God’s Kingdom (wages) in the same measure as he who has been faithful for many years. In our view of justice and rightness we probably would side with the sentiments of those hired at the beginning of the day: we should receive more money than those hired after us. But our God, fortunately, doesn’t think the same way we do; His compassion, love, graciousness and mercy far exceeds ours.
Our attitude may be one that prays for mercy for ourselves but seeks exacting justice for others. Our God is not fair, by human standards, and I am so thankful for that. God through His word is constantly teaching us to look to Him for all things and learn from His ways as was the example of His son for us. “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man–though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8).
May we show the same love, compassion and mercy to others that God constantly provides to us.