Don’t you think some people are overpaid? Oh, not you and me! We deserve every
penny. It’s those other people – the slackers and slow wits. Some of them, really! How do they even keep a job?
Which raises the question: How do you determine a person’s worth? How do you measure merit?
Some are rewarded for how much they produce -like a salesman on commission. Some are rewarded for what they know - professors and consultants. Some are rewarded for skill - the major league player with a Gold Glove compared to an average minor leaguer.
Some are rewarded for how they look or sound, like rock and movie stars. Some are rewarded for what they don’t do. The best neurosurgeon may not perform more operations, but he makes fewer mistakes. Some, of course, are rewarded for who they know. I’ll let you decide who to think of for this one.
This world rewards people based on perceived merit And then, we take that way of thinking to church and bump into Jesus who doesn’t seem to understand how things work. He wants to measure people differently. To really muddle matters, he wants to reward everyone equally, regardless how well or how long they worked – or didn’t.
Jesus compared God’s kingdom to a farmer hiring workers for his vineyard. Some worked all day. Others started three hours late, and some didn’t drag in until an hour before quitting time. Yet the boss paid everyone the same.
Those who worked 12 hours protested. But it wasn’t unfair. Everyone was paid as much as promised and expected. Some just got extra. As the boss put it, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” (Matthew 20:15). Sure he does. And God has the right to give of his grace as generously as he likes to whomever he likes.
Our difficulty is we forget that everything God gives us is extra. He owes us absolutely nothing – except hell which is what we all justly deserve. Forgiveness is an act of grace. Heaven is a gift, not a reward for time well served. It is delightful news that God delights in giving to those who “deserve” it less.
Perhaps we should reconsider how we measure merit. That might change the way I think of “other people” – the slackers and slow wits, of whom I am chief.