Grace is unmerited favor. When God took the Israelites out of Egypt, it was all His grace. None of the Israelite, not even Moses and Aaron, deserved God’s salvation. They were stubborn, rebellious and unfaithful, unsteady in their ways and too ready to compromise. Yet God took pity on them and initiated the whole Exodus event. The people did not know that they had no bargaining power before the Lord, all they received were unmerited gifts and God could choose to withhold them any time.
The parable of the laborers in the vineyard further explains the concept of grace. Early in the morning the owner went out to hire laborers for his vineyard, agreeing to pay them a denarius each for a day’s work. At the third hour, he went out and saw others idle in the marketplace, and he hired them without specifying the pay. Then at the sixth hour, the ninth hour and the eleventh hour, he did the same. So there were five groups of workers in the vineyard with different work hours due to their times of entry. The difference between the first and the last group is ten hours.
At the end of the day, the payment of wages is very interesting. The last group was paid first with one denarius each. When the first group was paid last with the same amount, they grumbled. They had good reasons: they worked much longer in the scorching heat and should be paid more. Most readers can identify with the first group, they asked for fairness, unequal work with equal pay is just not fair.
The first group was the contracted group, they were given a contract of one denarius per day to work all day. However, the other groups were not contracted, they were to be paid at the mercy of the owner. The owner had the right to use his own money to pay. If he wished, the other groups could be paid more than the first group! This is a sharp contrast between a contractual relationship and a relationship of grace. Although Israel had a covenant relationship with God, God was merciful to them at the end of the day.
Grace removes our expectation of fairness, we should not be jealous and grumbling if we do not get what we think we deserved. God has the full right to give us whatever He thinks is right and we are in no position to bargain. Grace supersedes fairness, equality, rank or seniority for the last shall be first and the first shall be last. As we approach God, do we want God to treat us fairly or treat us with grace? If God were to treat us as we deserve, we would all go to hell. None of us deserve anything. We must put away our sense of entitlement in dealing with God.
Pray now to thank God for His grace and mercy on you. Ask Him for a heart of gratitude to replace the heart of entitlement and jealousy.
Ps 18:7-15 Exo 10:1-12:13 Matt 20:1-28 Prov 6:6-11