This weekend, the Sunday School lesson focuses on the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Matthew 20:16 says, “So the last will be first and the first will be last.” Grace is when you get what you don’t deserve, and in this parable we see the workers who were there the longest reacting because people were getting the same payment for working less.
We have a problem with grace. Some of us don’t know how to accept grace, while some of us like to drown ourselves in it and think it gives us protection to keep on sinning. Some of us can accept it for ourselves, but we don’t like when it is given to others. Some of us cannot show grace to others. Some of us try to earn our own way.
For the lesson, I searched for different song titles including the word “grace.” This collection provides some different words that some associate with grace. What does grace mean to you? With regard to this parable, place yourself in the position of the workers who were there all day. How do you feel when those who barely worked received the same payment? Consider this in your own situation, at your own workplace—how do YOU feel when your co-workers are getting what you think they don’t deserve?
This is a hard lesson for anyone. We so often can find ourselves thinking someone doesn’t deserve something. Someone doesn’t deserve the promotion. Someone doesn’t deserve the help. Someone doesn’t deserve the forgiveness. Someone doesn’t deserve—GRACE. That’s grace! We don’t deserve it. But we are given it anyway. Stop pointing out what isn’t deserved. Accept grace. Give grace. And remember, no one deserves it, but God has given it anyway out of love, because of who He is. That’s the beauty of grace.
“For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is a gift. All that is good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God.”
– Brennan Manning
“Grace is the free, undeserved goodness and favor of God to mankind.”
– Matthew Henry
We all have moments when we are angry. Jonah got angry. He wasn’t angry because the boat ride was shaky. He wasn’t upset that he was swallowed by a fish. He was irritated by the fact that God showed compassion on Nineveh. Jonah was sent to tell the people of Nineveh to change their ways, and he ran at first, because he did not think they deserved the grace and mercy of God. It upset him that people who were so evil would be given the opportunity to repent and be forgiven.
We all are undeserving of the love, the grace, the mercy, the compassion that God shows for us. Jonah recognized that God was “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity” (4:2 NASB). Jonah saw all this good in God, and yet he did not immediately follow God’s instructions. Why?
There are often moments in life when we are not so easily supportive of God showing His grace and mercy on others. It is difficult for us to see people who have destroyed the lives of so many, and know that God has forgiven them. We believe our wrongs, our sins aren’t as bad as the sins of others. Why should someone who abused his wife and threw away his marriage and his children receive the same love from God as a “good Christian” who only lied a bit and missed a few church services? Why should someone who committed murder be shown the same love as someone who only took a tank full of gasoline from the local station?
These are tough questions that are sometimes difficult for us to accept and to keep ourselves from asking. We know the answer. Jonah knew the answer. God is gracious. He is compassionate. He is “abundant in lovingkindness.” But it made Jonah angry. Nineveh was filled with bad people. Why should they be forgiven for all they did simply by changing their ways and following God?
There should not be any question for us to ask except one. Why has God sent His one and only Son to be our Substitute and pay for our sins for we are unworthy? The answer, again, is that He is a compassionate, gracious God. He shows us grace– which is a gift– and we have no say on who He does and does not show His grace. Remember the parable of vineyard workers, where the workers who were there all day were paid the same as those who came to work late? “Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:14-15 NASB).
Jonah did not appreciate the generosity of God. God asked Jonah if he had a good reason to be angry. He didn’t. He actually told God that death was better than life. Jonah thought rather than see God show compassion on those he thought were undeserving, it would be better to be dead. That is a lot of anger to have simply because God was gracious to people. I wonder if there are times when we also get a bit upset at His graciousness, at His mercy.
I pray that if you are angry today, that you may take the time and steps needed to give it to God and let it go. I pray that you are able to “take what is yours” and move onward. God gives us the greatest gift of all. I pray that we never lose sight of that great gift, and that we continue to offer a heart of gratitude toward our loving, compassionate, gracious Father.
“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You… You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.”
– Psalm 86:5, 15 [NASB]
I recommend reading this wonderful article “What Do I Do If I’m Angry With God?” written by Alexandrea J. Wilson, founder and director of the Mt. Ephraim Center, for some great insight.