You can’t miss the recent events involving airlines that have made the news in the past few weeks. There have been some rather disturbing reports about how they are handling overbookings. People have been filmed taking matters into their own hands rather than wait to deal with some impersonal clerk in a complaint department–which has resulted in some nasty behavior on the parts of all those involved.
I remember going to complaint departments in large department stores. Few people would go to leave compliment for outstanding service; many would rush up to complain about bad attitudes, lax service, or lack of merchandise. Human dissatisfaction on life doesn’t change.
Is it surprising, therefore, that even the disciples are eager to find out what following Christ will get them? Jesus informs them of a different reward and backs it up by a story he hopes will silence them on the subject. While He loves them, it is quite a shock to learn what is in store for them as they have yet to fully grasp His place in this world–and theirs in the world to come!
Matthew 20: 1-16-For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
Whoops! This is a story about standing at God’s complaint department. And it isn’t written with the ending the disciples had expected.
God honors unexpected people–not simply the ‘religious’ or ‘powerful’. Good and bad, young and old, free or slave, black or white, with God there is no respector of color, power, or nation. ALL who accept His son Jesus’s gift of sacrifice for their sins will be granted eternal life at whatever age or stage of life they are in at the time.
While God promises that the faithful will be rewarded in heaven, He doesn’t want us to mistake His generosity for practicing legality or works as His entrance fee. You can abstain from swearing, alcohol, sex, dancing, drugs, smoking, doing ‘good’ etc. and pat yourself on the back as being a good ‘Christian’–but by that very pride you have destroyed God’s purpose. These are all great attributes that you may be convicted to practice…but by your intention you fail.
God’s generosity is open so that whether we come to him at five, at fifty, at seventy-five, or on our deathbed, He welcomes us. It is for US to understand that by knowing Him sooner we are the ones who benefit from his gift.
I quite understand why the laborers in this story were upset. Some had toiled in the hot sun for hours while others worked only a few hours. The disciples, like all of us, needed Jesus’ reminder that God deals with all fairly and they are not be generous because they have such a gracious and generous boss!
God has an OPEN complaint department with no restrictions but faith, belief, and trust in His Son Jesus. It’s a lot better than any you can find down here!