Pay Equity? Thankfully NOT!

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

Readings for September 20, 2020; Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 27:1-9; Philippians 1:12-14,19-30; Matthew 20: 1-16

But [the owner of the vineyard answered], “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” Matthew 20:13-15

When my children were young, they learned firsthand that ‘fair’ did not equal ‘the same’.  They each had unique gifts, abilities, interests, and needs, and in many situations each received different forms or levels of care and support from us. At times when one child was receiving an extra measure of care during a personal need or interest, the others clearly displayed their frustration in the present ‘unfairness’, as they saw it. However, whether they approved or not, they did come to understand that if one of their siblings, including themselves, had a need, we, their parents, would assist them where they were at. They did not doubt that we would be there to support them when they needed. Our children learned ‘grace’ – how to receive it and how to extend it.

Isn’t grace exactly what we see the owner of the vineyard extend to his workers; particularly the workers who were invited to work only part of the day? Although all the workers received the same pay, they all did not endure the same amount of work. I believe we can even get caught up in judging the owner and feeling that the human rights of the earlier workers were violated. However, the owner makes a just point: he paid the first workers what they agreed to. So, if he chose to pay the others, who worked less hours, the same amount then that was his choice. He was not cheating the original workers, but was simply being generous and gracious to those workers who came later in the day. It’s all about the owner’s generosity and grace, and really has nothing to do with him treating anyone with less love or fairness. In fact, if this story was simply about an owner being generous with his money to his workers, then we could perhaps understand the above reasoning, whether we liked it or not. However, this story goes beyond a simply wage dispute. It displays the generosity of God’s grace for his creation, humankind, and dispels all teaching of works righteous – working our way into heaven.

You see, for some of us, God, by his Holy Spirit, may have called us to his fold as a young child, and we have served him through all our years. We have been aware of his commandments, of his boundaries for our lives and felt the Holy Spirit’s nudging to avoid temptation. Although we would have also experienced God’s grace and love, joy and peace, we would have also been faced with the ‘work’ to walk in his ways. Unfortunately, for some followers of Jesus, that is what they see, or told to focus on; focus on the work of following Jesus – do this, don’t do that.

Then there are those of us who have lived a life without heeding any of God’s calls, and walked down the road of self-indulgence and ways contrary to godly living. Yet, in the final hour, or even later- the final moment, before our earthly walk is over, we received the call of the Holy Spirit, the gift of life eternal through Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Even in that last moment, we receive the exact same gracious gift of salvation as those who ‘toiled’ their whole life in following the ways of the Lord, as their Lord and Saviour. Oh boy, how dare God give them the same payment? Isn’t that what we say: How can those people who only acknowledge him in their final moments, and prior to that did their own thing which may include murder, abuse, and all those acts listed in Galatians 5, receive the payment won by Christ, the salvation of their souls and life eternal with our Heavenly Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

If our salvation was about our works, then perhaps we would have an argument. If your salvation is about what you are ‘doing’ then you may be very disappointed, and you’re missing the pure joy of trusting Jesus as your Saviour.  For it is in this story of the owner and his workers, that we can see that our salvation has nothing to do with us and our work, but everything to do with God’s grace and the Salvation he has prepared for us- for God does not desire anyone to be lost, but for all to come to the knowledge of his Son. Therefore, as we endure our days, may we not look at our life in Christ as a continuous list of work obligations but an opportunity to freely proclaim His love and grace through Jesus, to give thanks to our maker for his love and mercy towards us, and to extend the invitation to others to receive this free gift of life eternal, even in their last moment.

Prayer: Dear Lord, owner of my soul, thank-you for your grace and mercy that while I was yet unborn, Christ died to pay the penalty my sins deserve. May my days be filled with thanksgiving to you, and may the ‘work’ I do be the ‘good works’ which you prepared in advance for me to do, in order to draw others to your harvest. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

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