Key Verse: Matthew 20:16
Big Idea: Rewards in God’s Kingdom do not correspond to our expectations.
There is something powerful about a parable: a simple story to illustrate a profound truth grabs our attention when direct attention would often leave our minds wandering. It is no wonder that the Bible records so many of them: thirty seven, or about one-third of Jesus’ total teaching. The knee-jerk response to the parable of Matthew 20:1-16 is probably just as sharp for us today as it was in the first century. If you were doing chores all day, and your sibling threw in a few minutes as your parents pulled into the driveway, you would be incensed to get the same reward as they did. If you worked for your company for a year, and someone else came in to the same position for the holiday rush, but made your same salary, you would probably not be sending the boss a Christmas card. We have certain expectations of fairness, and get angry when those are not met.
But Jesus takes this expectation and turns it on its head. What right do we have to be angry if someone else is treated generously, when we are treated fairly? Have we lost something because they have succeeded? Of course not, but the resentment remains.
In the spiritual realm, this is especially true. We compare ourselves to others, and want to delude ourselves into thinking that we are more worthy than they are. But God has already treated us more than fairly – He has given us grace when we deserved judgment, and made us part of His family when we had lived as rebels. If someone else comes to faith at the end of their life, can we criticize God for treating them generously, when we have already been loved so greatly? God does not see things the way that we do, and our expectations of cause and effect are all smothered by waves of grace.
Discussion idea: How does God’s salvation and generosity defy our expectations? Would we really want to be treated “fairly” by God?
Prayer focus: Let each family member talk about a time they are tempted to resent God’s way of dealing with people. Pray for God to help us to trust His generosity and faithful love.