Is God Fair? (2)

We have seen that this parable and Jesus’ concluding remarks fit within a long section in Matthew that, in various ways, overturns our concepts of human worth. But that does not answer the question, “Is God fair in His dealings with us?” If we are honest, we shall admit that we often question the justice of God’s treatment of us. Why does He seem to favor others more than He does us? They seem to have a better life, even though they are not morally better than we are. Why do my friends seem to have a happier marriage than I do? Her husband is more considerate and responsible; his wife prettier, sweeter, and more respectful. Why can’t I have the health, wealth, or happiness that others seem to enjoy? This parable reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways. In context, it rebukes the Jews, who thought that the Gentiles did not deserve to be treated as well as those who had worked hard to keep all God’s commands. In particular, the Pharisees grumbled because Jesus ate with sinners (9:11), while they were careful to observe the Law of Moses. Even among Jesus’ inner circle, competition and envy led to power struggles and complaining, as we have seen (20:24). The problem is that we all think we deserve more than we are receiving. Jesus will have none of such thinking. Just as the landowner had the prerogative to dispose of his money as he wished, so the God of the universe may dispense His grace in any way He wants (see Romans 9-11). True, the invitation goes out to “many.” Both during Jesus’ ministry, and since then at His command (28:18-20), the good news of God’s saving mercy has been preached abroad, and multitudes have heard. As in the parable of the wedding feast (22:1-14), many are invited – or called – but only a few respond. Lest those who accept the invitation to God’s banquet imagine that they are somehow better than those who turned down the gracious offer – as Peter seems to imply in his question (19:27) – Jesus reminds us that only those who have been “chosen” will enjoy God’s company. The landowner did not have to hire anyone to work; God is not required to save a single sinner. To think that we deserve anything is to forget who we really are, and who God is.