Even in things that really matter, life isn’t fair. Dishonest people cheat and steal and get ahead while honest hard-workers struggle to get by. Sweet innocent children die tragically every day while very bad people live long lives hurting as many people as they can. In principle, America is the land of equality, but we all know people who get jobs or better pay over others because they are black or white or a man or a woman or handicapped or pleasant looking or because they have connections, or because they are loud and pushy. This isn’t a case of the grass is greener on the other side…. It’s just true that life really isn’t fair.
That’s why I’m so glad that God is always fair. But wait! That’s not true. God isn’t fair either. Jesus tells us so in the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Jesus tells us that a landowner goes out in the morning and hires some workers telling them he will pay them a denarius for the day. They agree and start working. This guy goes out several more times during the day (the last time being just an hour before quitting time) and hires more workers. Then when the day is over, he pays his workers, starting with the last hired. He gives them all a denarius. When he gets to the workers hired first thing in the morning, they are all excited thinking if the guys who worked only one hour got a denarius then they are going to be rolling in the money. (Maybe they will get that new cart they’ve been looking at—like the one their brother-in-law got last month.) As they are each handed one denarius, they cry out in outrage – THAT’S NOT FAIR!!!! We worked ALL day in the HOT, hot sun and they only worked one hour in the cool of the evening and they got the same pay we did. And the landowner (God) said, “Who said I was going to be fair?! Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? What I do with my money is my business and if I decide to be generous to those hired last, what’s that to you?”
If we all got what we deserve, we would all be hopeless. Even the most deserving “saint” falls way short of God’s perfect holiness. It’s because God isn’t fair, because he is love, that Jesus took our place in condemnation and punishment on the cross and overcame death so that nothing but my own willfulness could come between an eternal relationship between me and him. I am so very grateful God isn’t fair.