God is generous. We often acknowledge this in principle and appreciate its truth but practically speaking it can often frustrate us and cause us to be envious of the way others have been blessed. We often mistake the economy of the world with the economy of God’s kingdom where we can be fooled into thinking that our works somehow earn blessings from God and that he is in some way indebted to us because of our faithfulness. Most things in our world work like this because we live in a merit-based system. But it is wrong of us to project this on God. Jesus tells the parable of Laborers in the Vineyard precisely to disrupt any notion that our salvation has anything to do with how hard we’ve worked, how long we’ve obeyed, or how we’ve suffered and toiled for God. Rather, salvation is a completely free gift that God gives to rebellious sinners who have earned nothing except the just wrath of God. We need to be constantly reminded of this truth as it is so easy to slip back into a works-based mentality. We need to be reminded over and over again that God’s love for us is not based on our faithfulness (or lack thereof).
God’s love for his people is based on grace and is given solely out of his generosity. When we complain that God is holding out on us or that God is being unjust, we forget what it is that we’ve been saved from (hell) and what we’ve been saved to (eternal life). Let us not forget the wonder that is eternal salvation.
In his commentary on Matthew, Dan Doriani comments, “In the parable, everyone gets the same payment, one denarius. A denarius is what a worker needs to live, to survive. The denarius represents eternal life. In the parable, some work long and hard for God’s kingdom. Others believe in the Lord only at the end of life; they serve him for a little while. Lifelong disciples can think ‘Unfair! Unfair! I worked harder. I deserve more.’ More than what, my friend? More than eternal life?”
God is not holding out on us. Rather, he did not spare even his own son so that we might inherit eternal life. May this truth lead us to be a people of humility, appreciation, and great generosity!