Faithlife Sermons

Wage Equality in the kingdom of God

Pentecost  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God is not the typical employer, and his generosity is not of this world.

Notes & Transcripts

That’s not Fair!


That’s not Fair!

Anyone with kids has likely heard that phrase many, MANY times over the years. Children are very quick to grasp the idea of equality. If one child gets a candy, they all want one! And of course, even as adults we are always very keen to ensure that we get what we have coming to us, and if someone else doing the same work as us is rewarded, we want in on that reward too! Our Canadian society is designed to ensure that the majority of the people are treated with equality. Equal rights between the genders, equal rights between indigenous and non-indigenous people, equal rights between different religious affiliations, equal rights between citizens and refugees, the list goes on.
And so, in today’s story, we see what at a glance seems like unjust treatment by a business owner to his workers. We sympathize with those first workers, so hard set upon by an unfair employer! But today we will see that God is not your typical employer. We will see that His generosity is so massive that it’s hard for us to comprehend, let alone accept.
Just so we are all the same page here, while Jesus was preaching to the entire crowd here, this was a fairly unsubtle jab at the Pharisees who had been following Him around for the past few chapters, harassing him and trying to catch Him doing something wrong so that they could punish Him. In this parable, the owner of the vineyard is God, and the workers that were hired in the early hours were the Pharisees and scribes, the descendants of the Levites. , those who had been offered the promise of Abraham, and in their eyes, had kept up their side of the bargain. The workers that were hired at the end of the day were the crowds, Jew and Gentile alike, who were coming to faith not from an early age like the Pharisees, but later, perhaps not until they saw Jesus performing miracles. And these same Pharisees knew exactly what Jesus meant about payment - these people were to receive God’s blessing and glory, despite having done none of the work in God’s temple and synagogues that the Pharisees did, despite not having dedicated their lives to God the way the Pharisees did, and despite not having necessarily been part of the covenant of God at all!
As a result of this, just as the people in the parable were complaining about the wage inequality, likewise the Pharisees were likely doing the same. And why not, it seems pretty horrible to work some people for generations to earn their way into heaven, and let others slip in at the last second! I know even today, sometimes people grumble about so-called “back door Christians” who lead a life that is not dedicated to God, then convert to Christianity before dying.

Not a wage, but grace

But here’s the kicker - nobody is actually “earning” any wage here. This wage is based on Grace, that is, the gift of a loving God. As Christians, we come to faith when the Holy Spirit calls us, wether that be as a baptized infant or as a person dying of old age in a hospice. This idea of grace confuses our human sensibilities.
In our text, the Jewish leaders grumbled about God’s gift being offered to “sinners” (vv20:11-12). And even right before today’s text, Peter thought that he and the other disciples should receive more than those who had not left their jobs, homes and possessions (v19:27).
And we too sometimes feel a bit of jealousy when we see those around us getting greater blessings from God than us. A bigger house, better health, more money - there are lots of things to be jealous over!

God has dealt fairly with all of us.

No injustice has been done - there is no unfair treatment for any of us - after all, we have received the agreed wage (vv20:13-14). Jesus Himself says, “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved”. God has truly dealt fairly with all of us.
God never promised to give us what we think we deserve for our efforts. Nowhere in scripture does it say that “worship me and I will make you wealthy, wise, and happy for all your days”. Yes, we do have verses telling us about how God may give us things such as wealth, wisdom or happiness, but those are not earned - they are gifts, and they come from a God who loves us dearly.
Our petty grumbling and complaining reveals our loveless and merciless attitude, and it shows that we live under the Law instead of Grace more often than we should, and perhaps a lot more than we realize. Think back to the servant that owed 10,000 talents - the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars - and was forgiven the debt but then went and threatened the man who owed him 100 denari, just a tiny fraction of what he himself owed. Life under the Law is not a happy life, that envy and grumbling eats away at us, and focuses us not on God and His immense gifts to us, but on our life and all the injustices we have received, according to us.

The wages are uniformly high.

What we miss out with all of our grumbling about fairness is that the wages God is offering us are simply ridiculous. God’s wages outstrip any work we could ever do to earn them. And God is the ultimate equal-opportunity employer. Baptized near birth? No problem. Baptized at age 40? No problem! Baptized seconds before death? No problem! Jesus taught that the kingdom of God was for everyone, not just a select few.
And as Jesus said just prior to today’s text, Whatever we give up in this life we receive one hundred fold, culminating of course in eternal life (v19:29). All our aches and pains that we receive in this life because of our faith can be counted as joys because of the wage coming our way!
But, isn’t it wonderful that even those of us who worked only one hour also receive a denarius? I can’t speak for all of you, but I am not a descendant of Abraham by birth. I was not a part of the old covenant. I am not a Pharisee. However, I thank God for His graceful wage rules and His immense generosity, that he would take the effort to save a sinner like myself.

The work is itself already a reward.

Finally, the Christian life is itself a reward. Knowing that you have an eternal life with God thanks to the grace of God and the work of His son Jesus Christ makes every day a joy. Each day can be a celebration of God’s love for you, not of wearisome duty but instead in happy service, no matter when God called us to faith and no matter how long God lets us serve Him. In all honesty, there is no richer, fuller life than that of a disciple of Christ. For the burden is easy, and the rewards are great!


So the wage question in the Kingdom of God is not something that we need to worry about. After all, the wages are more than fair, and the kingdom has no unemployment at all, and will employ anyone who does not reject the wages! Furthermore, the wages are uniformly high, so high that the generosity of God is not really something to grasp. So, dear brothers and sisters, revel in the simple knowledge that your wages, a gift of God, are all you need, no matter when you were hired!
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