Is God Fair?

KEY VERSE: “The last shall be first, and the first last.” —Matthew 20:16


WHAT BEAUTIFUL truths concerning the Christian life are illustrated by the “penny” parable when viewed in the light of the Master’s own introduction to it! The parable illustrates the basis upon which the called ones may prove worthy of living and reigning with Christ—they must give their all, regardless of how little or how much that may be.

In relating the parable, Jesus anticipated that there might well be some who, when learning of this arrangement, would not be satisfied with it, so he showed just how wrong such an attitude would be. In effect, it would be calling in question the justice and wisdom of God.

The “first” ones to be hired are said to complain because they did not receive more than those who had worked fewer hours. The householder’s reply to this complaint is in the form of a simple question: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” An important prerogative of our Heavenly Father is here set forth, upon which the Apostle Paul enlarged. We quote:

“O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?”—Rom. 9:16-21

One of the important lessons of the parable is that none of God’s servants has the right to criticize him for the manner in which he bestows his benefactions. The setting of the parable also throws much light on its meaning. Peter, having in mind Jesus’ earlier reply to the rich young ruler, asked, “Behold we have forsaken all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” This parable was included in Jesus’ answer. At its dose the expression is repeated: “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” Jesus noted that the parable is the explanation of how the ‘first is last’, and the ‘last first’, as stated earlier.

Jesus used this expression at another time when alluding to the fact that Israel as a nation, the ‘first’ recipients of the Gospel, would lose their exclusive position of favor, and Gentiles, those who had been ‘last’, would have the opportunity to share their blessings. (Luke 13:24-30) When this actually happened a few years later much dissatisfaction was registered by the Jewish brethren. It erupted into the single greatest problem in the Early Church.

Important for all the Lord’s people throughout the age is the need to have full confidence in Jesus and in his Heavenly Father—to recognize that they have the right to reward their servants in any way they desire—that whatever rewards they mete out are unmerited. It is by grace that we attain unto the “great salvation,” not by any works of our own.—Heb. 2:3

The amount of work done by the followers of the Master has no bearing on the reward received. This is emphasized in the parable by the exchange of position. The ‘first’ workers hired put in more hours, but the last’ ones to be hired were placed in their position and became ‘first’, while the original ‘first’ ones became last’. However, all receive the penny, emphasizing that the number of hours worked did not enter into the amount of wages paid. The disciple who follows the Master for many years will receive no greater reward in the kingdom than one who has been faithful for a very short period of time—none could work long enough to deserve them. The priceless penny is given to those who demonstrate their faithfulness by giving their all, regardless of how much that might be.

In the parable Jesus emphases how wrong it would be for any of us when we understand it, to question God’s goodness and justice in making this arrangement.

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |