LIfe's Not Fair

January 16-20


Life’s Not Fair

Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, – Matthew 20: 10-11 (ESV)

99-year-old Osceola “Ozzie” Fletcher finally received his Purple Heart. It was awarded in a ceremony at the Fort Hamilton Army base in June of 2021 for wounds he suffered in the Battle of Normandy in 1944. Army officials said that Fletcher was “overlooked” for the medal previously because of racial inequalities. Fletcher said that he was “exhilarated,” when he received the award.

Life often can feel unfair in the moment. The parable in Matthew 20 describes the kind of thing that frequently happened at certain times in Palestine. The grape harvest ripened towards the end of September, and then it was a frantic race against time to bring in the harvest before the rains arrived. Any worker was welcome, even if he could give only an hour to the work. According to strictly human standards, it would be a very unfair labor practice to pay the same amount to someone who only worked for one hour as someone who had worked at the same job all day. Pastor Josh told us we all know life can be unfair. We often think that because our circumstances seem unfair, God is being unfair. But that’s not what this passage teaches us.


This parable has nothing to do with salvation because nobody works for salvation. This parable has everything to do with a wrong attitude in service. This parable is built on Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27, “Therefore what shall we have?” When have you felt unfairly treated recently? What’s a proper motive for serving the Lord?


Thank God for the opportunity to be involved in His work. Ask God to show you where your motives or attitude may be wrong about serving Him.


God is Faithful

But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?” – Matthew 20:13 (ESV)

In Thornton Wilder’s play The Skin of Our Teeth the character Mrs. Antrobus says to her spouse, “I didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I married you because you gave me a promise.” She takes off her ring and looks at it. “That promise made up for your faults and the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage.”

In Matthew 20:13, Jesus uses the promise of the landowner to illustrate the faithfulness of God to keep His promises. These first workers were grumbling as if they had been treated unjustly. But there was no injustice on the part of the landowner whatsoever. They had agreed, from the beginning, to work for a denarius; and that’s exactly what they received. The landowner was faithful to keeping His promise to pay the agreed-upon wage.


Pastor Josh reminded us God can’t be unfair because God can’t break His promises. When having the circumstances of life made you doubt God’s faithfulness? Did God break any promises to you when you felt that way?


Praise God for being a promise keeper. Ask God to help your faith not waiver when life doesn’t go the way you want it to go.


God is Sovereign

 “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” – Matthew 20:15 (ESV)

A story is told of a cowboy who goes to buy some life insurance. The broker asked him if he had any accidents in the past year, to which the cowboy replied “No. But I was kicked by a horse, chased by a raging bull, and bitten by a snake – that laid me up for a while.” The agent said, “Weren’t they accidents?” To which the cowboy replied, “No, they did it on purpose.” You see this stockman realized that there are no such things as accidents. (Source Unknown).

There are no accidents with God. Calling God sovereign is another way of saying God is always in control. In Matthew 20:15 we are reminded that God can do what He chooses with anything or anyone because it all belongs to Him. Our Lord sovereignly calls whomever He chooses to work in His field. He not only chooses whoever He wishes but also whenever He wishes. Some He calls in the early morning. Some He calls later in the morning, or at noontime, or in the early afternoon. And He even calls at what almost seems like the last minute. You should go to the vineyard and work—knowing that He knows what He has planned for you to do and that He will reward you graciously for your faithful service


We should never question God’s sovereign choices. Any portion we share in His Creation is a gift and a blessing. When have you seen God’s plans work out better than your plans?


Praise God for His power and sovereignty. Thank God for allowing you to steward some of the most valuable things in your life.


God is Good

“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”   – Matthew 20:15 (ESV)

The story is told that one day a beggar by the roadside asked for alms from Alexander the Great as he passed by. The man was poor and wretched and had no claim upon the ruler, no right even to lift a solicitous hand. Yet, the Emperor threw him several gold coins. A courtier was astonished at his generosity and commented, “Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar’s need. Why give him gold?” Alexander responded in royal fashion, “Cooper coins would suit the beggar’s need, but gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.” (Unknown)

The landowner in Matthew 20:15 represents the goodness and generosity of God. The laborer who only worked an hour was given far more than He had earned because of the goodness of the landowner. Pastor Josh reminded us, “We cannot focus on what we feel we’ve been slighted and we must focus on all that we’ve been given in Christ.”


Dave Ramsey so famously says on his daily radio program when people ask him how he’s doing, he always says, “Better than I deserve!” What are some of the good things in your life that you don’t deserve?


Praise God for areas of your life where you have felt His generosity. Ask God to grow your sense of gratitude when you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly.


Life Isn’t Fair

So the last will be first, and the first last.” – Matthew 20:16 (ESV)

As a hundred thousand fans watched, Richard Petty ended his 45-race losing streak and picked up stock car racing’s biggest purse–$73,500. It all happened at the Daytona 500. Going into the last lap, he was running 30 seconds behind the two leaders. All at once, the car in second place tried to pass the No. 1 man on the final stretch. This caused the first car to drift inside and force the challenger onto the infield grass, and slightly out of control. The offended driver pulled his car back onto the track, caught up with the leader, and forced him into the outside wall. Both vehicles came to a screeching halt. The two drivers jumped out and quickly got into an old-fashioned slugging match. In the meantime, third-place Petty cruised by for the win. (Source Unknown)

In God’s economy the one in “first” doesn’t always finish “first.” The parable in Matthew 20 is summed up for us, both at the beginning and at the end: “Many who are first will be last, and the last first”. May we be both warned and encouraged by this parable. May we be warned never to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. And may we be encouraged never to think ourselves too unworthy of His service. If He calls us at any point in life, He does so as He chooses; and He is able not only to use us powerfully but also to reward us graciously.


In what ways have you felt unworthy as a follower of Christ? In what ways are you tempted to be prideful as a follower of Christ?


Praise God that His ways are higher and better than our ways. Ask God to help you have a proper estimation of yourself and joy from serving Him.