Being a “lastie”
Remember the Parable of the Vineyard. In this story told by Jesus, the workers who are hired at the end of the day get the same amount of money as those hired in the morning. I love (and hate) this story because it grates on my sense of fairness.
When I consider who I identify with, it is those hired first (the “firsties). I’ve believed in God most of my life and have worked hard for his kingdom. Often, I’m afraid, us firsties feel entitled to God’s grace and favor.
But I think Jesus would like us to think of ourselves as “lasties,” those who have done nothing to merit God’s grace and favor. The firsties think God is unfair because he gives the lasties what they don’t deserve, yet at the foot of the cross, we are all lasties. None of us have done anything to deserve the grace of God so yes, God is unfair. Wondrously, gloriously, lavishly unfair. He gives us what we do not deserve.
I think Jesus is challenging us to determine which attitude we harbor. Do you feel like the first or the last? Here’s how we can tell:
- Those who think of themselves as last respond to life with gratitude.
- Those who think of themselves as first respond to life with grumbling.
Are you grumbling more than your giving thanks? It’s easy to do, isn’t it? Do you find yourself praying: “God it’s not fair! I do (or don’t) deserve this.” Grumbling comes from thinking we deserve more than we get. Gratitude comes from realizing we get far more than we deserve.
Here’s another way we can tell:
- Those who think of themselves as last are content.
- Those who think of themselves as first are always comparing.
Here’s the rub: you can’t be grateful and envious at the same time. Because God’s grace and the gospel put to death any form of comparison. It wipes out any notion of firsties or lasties. Those categories are meaningless when it comes to the grace of God. Jesus’ kingdom will offend all of us who assume that our future, if it is to be good, must be earned and deserved.
Did you notice that even the workers hired early in the day rolled out of bed that morning unemployed? They are just as unemployed as those who were hired at the end of the day. This is not a story about fairness or earned wages or reimbursement. It is rather an illustration of a gracious and undeserved gift that is offered freely by a gracious and generous God.
Being Human Connection: Yes, God is unfair—lavishly, wonderfully, amazingly unfair. Because we are all lasties. He doesn’t give us what we deserve, he gives us what we need—and what we need is him.
About the artwork: “The Red Vineyard” by Vincent Van Gogh. During his lifetime, Van Gogh was never famous as a painter and struggled to make a living as an artist. Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime and it was this one. This painting sold in Brussels for 400 Francs only a few months before his death. (source: http://www.vangoghgallery.com)