Crossroads: That’s Not Fair!

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Matthew 20:1-16

Your Story

Talk about a time when you deserved punishment but were given grace, or about a time when someone was very generous to you. You can also talk about a time when you were very generous to someone else, or when you gave someone grace who perhaps didn’t “deserve” it.

My Story and the Bible Story

“That’s not fair!” Growing up with a younger sister sometimes meant that I said “that’s not fair” a good bit. There were times when she got to do things much earlier than I had gotten to do them, or she got her way when I really wanted mine. There were times when it seemed as if she got away with doing more than I ever got away with. There were lots of times when things didn’t seem fair. If you have siblings, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve probably said “that’s not fair!” more times than you can count. Or maybe something happened at school. You get punished for something that someone else did. You don’t get what you earned. You were punished and someone else wasn’t punished at all. Someone else gets a bigger piece of cake or more ice cream. Whatever it is, there are times in life when things just aren’t fair.

Read Matthew 20:1-16. From The Message: God’s kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work. “Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went. “He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, ‘Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?’ “They said, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “He told them to go to work in his vineyard. “When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, ‘Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.’ “Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’ “He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’ “Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.

The men who worked for an hour received the same amount of money as the men who worked the whole day. It doesn’t seem fair that those who only did a small amount of work got paid the same as the workers who worked all day long. And yet, the manager paid all of them a fair wage. He decided to be generous to those who hadn’t worked all day, and at the same time he still paid those who worked the whole day a fair wage. He didn’t cheat the ones who worked all day to pay those who didn’t. He just decided that he wanted to be generous with the ones who came late. Here’s the thing: grace is like this. It is sometimes hard for us to accept grace because it’s not fair. God gives grace to people we think deserve it and to those we think don’t deserve it. There’s a song that says “the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.” Grace is a gift. It’s not something we earned, and it’s not something we deserve. We make mistakes. We do the wrong thing. We look at our sin and think that it’s not as bad as what someone else did. We may think to ourselves, “I lied but at least I didn’t cheat.” Or, “I cheated but at least I didn’t steal.” But God doesn’t see things that way. For God, all sin is the same. And because all sin is the same, none of us deserve grace. There’s no way we can earn grace because we aren’t perfect. There will always be times when we choose the wrong thing.

Life isn’t fair. But that’s the beauty of it. If life were fair, none of us could have a relationship with God. If we only ever got what we deserved, we would never have Jesus. We would never know God’s love. If life were fair, we would have to follow every single rule 100% of the time in the hope that God would think we deserve God’s life. Life isn’t fair. There are times when people get good things that they didn’t earn or don’t deserve. There will be times when people deserve to be punished and aren’t. But those are times when we can see God’s grace too. We see God’s grace when someone gives us grace instead of punishment. We see God’s grace when someone is generous with us, like the manager was. So the next time you find yourself saying, “that’s not fair,” think about God’s grace. And remember that it’s because of that grace, because God loves us enough to give it to us, that life isn’t fair.

Discussion

• Ask your family about times when they deserved to be punished for something but were given grace. Talk about times when someone was generous to them.
• Ask your family about times when they gave grace to someone else. Has there been a time when they were generous to someone else?
• Talk about ways to show God’s grace when things aren’t fair. How can we respond when we are punished for something someone else did? How should we respond when someone is given grace?

Prayer

Thank God for God’s grace. Ask for help in recognizing that none of us deserve it. Ask for help in sharing God’s grace with others, particularly when we feel like they don’t deserve it.

Jessica Asbell is currently serving as the Minister to Children at First Baptist Church of Roswell, GA. She has worked with children in various capacities at several churches, including Winter Park Baptist in Wilmington, NC, First Baptist of Decatur, GA, and Highland Hills Baptist in Macon, GA. She has a Master of Divinity from McAfee School of Theology and a BBA from Mercer University. In her spare time she loves to read, watch movies, and of course spend time with her sweet kitty, Lucy.

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