Grace & The Folly of Comparison

Human logic is somewhat incompatible with grace. Sayings like “You get what you pay for” and “Earn your keep” make sense from the perspective of rational thinking but in those times when you get more than what you pay for or earn more than your keep, human logic tends not to be pleased. More often than not, this tends to be in the context of comparison.

In the parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20:1-16), a landowner hired people to work for him at different times of the day. The first batch of workers resumed at 6a.m, the second at 9am and subsequent batches at noon, 3pm and 5pm. When the time came to pay wages, the landowner started with the last workers, paying them a day’s wages (the same as those who had been working since 6am). Now you can imagine that the earliest workers were not pleased with this at all and they did not hesitate to make this clear.

What struck me about this passage was the fact that the 6am workers had agreed with the landowner on the wages they would be paid. They were satisfied with it until they compared it with the wages of the 5pm workers. I reiterate, in the context of human logic and rational thinking, the 6am workers had a valid point, especially where fairness and equity are concerned. However, the Kingdom of God is not one of fairness alone but one of grace as well. If God was just interested in fairness, we would all be deserving of death. That is why grace is such a beautiful thing.

Now I’m quite sure the 6am workers would not have had an issue with the situation if they had been 5pm workers. But imagine if they could have been satisfied with their own portion and maybe even happy for the 5pm workers. The 6am workers didn’t know where the 5pm workers were coming from; perhaps one’s child was sick and needed tending to the whole day, maybe another was helping a friend in dire need. The reason is irrelevant; what matters is that the landowner (God in this parable) saw it fit to give the 5pm workers that wage. In the context of Kingdom thinking, that should make the situation okay for everyone.

Many times, we compare ourselves with other people thinking we deserve better. Sometimes we are correct as far as rationality is concerned. But we become ungrateful when we see them getting more than what we think they deserve, especially when it’s the same as our portion. I think this means that we don’t have the right perspective. When we do our work as unto the Lord and live according to our God-given purpose, the need for comparison lessens and we may even be free to celebrate the grace of God in the lives of others.

Understand that this message is as much for me as it is for you.



Thought of the day

I was reading Matthew 3 today and was struck anew by words that I had seen and read many times:

In those days, John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him’”. – Matthew 3:1-3

The chapter goes to describe John in a manner that could only have been perceived as weird at the time. But what hit home for me was the certainty with which the author confirmed that John was the fulfillment of a prophecy. I was about to go on reading but I felt a check in my spirit to pause on this and reflect.

John the Baptist knew who he was and what he was called to do. Yes, he probably came across crazy to the people that knew (of) him. But that did not matter to him. I believe he knew the weight of what was required of him. He must have understood the import of his calling, the fulfillment of God’s word to his ancestors, was to take place through him. There must have been times when he was discouraged, lonely and close to quitting (to settle for an ordinary life) but that was not his calling.

Many of us are living lives that are incompatible with who God has called us to be and the assignments we have been tasked to complete. Society preaches conformity, safety (staying in your comfort zone) and political correctness but we have been called to be light in a depraved world. Light cannot shine in its fullness and be appreciated for the illumination it brings if it does not first acknowledge that there is darkness. Imagine if John tried to conform. He would never have called out the Pharisees or let the people know that there was sin in them to repent from.

What prophecies are hanging over you? How long have you kept God waiting to use you? What shall be said of you by generations to come?