“Hey! That’s not fair.” Ever said that? I sure have. Usually in reference to a sporting event when the referees miss a call and my team comes up on the losing side. (Which, as a Cubs fan, is almost always) We all have this sense of fairness within us. When something happens that violates what we determine to be fair, it can easily send us down a slippery slope towards anger, frustration, and jealousy. Were you ever jealous when your parents gave your sibling a present and not you? Or were you ever jealous when your parents gave your sibling a better present than what they gave you? Have you ever been jealous when your boss gives someone else the promotion that you thought you deserved? Have you ever been jealous of someone else in the church who just seems to have everything going for them and you don’t?
I once heard a story of a pastor who went on a trip to speak at a conference in a different city without his family. While he was traveling he found a toy that he knew his one son would absolutely love. So he bought it for him and decided to give it to his son in the presence of his other children to see how they would react. To his joy he gave the toy to his son and all of his other kids rejoiced with him.
The main point of Jesus’s parable in Matthew 20:1-16 is to teach us what grace in the Kingdom of Heaven truly is. To grasp grace in the Kingdom of God, we must remember that grace and justice are two completely different categories. Grace is not fair; by nature grace is undeserved favor or blessing. This distinction is critical to our understanding of salvation. “It is by grace you have been saved.” (Eph. 2:8) We didn’t deserve it; God saved us by His grace alone. In the same vein we should not be jealous of others who are experiencing God’s blessing. As with so many truths in Scripture, this one is critical for both our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationship with people.