“And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? . . . I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you? Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:11–15).
Entry into the Kingdom of heaven is by grace not by works. And this is the point of the parable. Those hired first received the same wage as those hired last. Those hired first, even though they bore the heat of the day, received the same wage as those hired last. Entry into the kingdom comes by grace, by the gracious call and invitation of the owner of the vineyard.
And we chafe against this. We, like those hired first, object to the master’s decision. We begrudge him because of his generosity. We think that those who labored longer should receive a greater wage. And we protest that it’s not fair. But that is precisely the point. It’s not fair. It’s by grace. It’s given from God’s undeserved love and kindness, not by merit. So we should rejoice. For to ask for fairness, to ask to be treated by what we deserve and have earned, is simply to ask for hell.
For God owes us nothing. For by grace you are saved, by his underserved love and mercy. And even though it was undeserved, that doesn’t mean it was cheap. It wasn’t cheap, but costly. It cost God the Father His own Son. It cost the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, His very life. God’s grace is costly grace. It costs us nothing but the cost for God was great. For it was achieved by the shedding of the holy and precious blood and the innocent suffering and death of Jesus. And it is by that shed blood that God by grace calls us to be His own. It is by that death that God by grace gives us entrance into His kingdom.
He doesn’t owe us. We’re not entitled to anything from God. He is not indebted to us. We are indebted to Him. For we have not lived as He mattered most. We have not loved Him with our whole heart, body, mind, and soul, with all that we are and all that we have. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve his temporal and eternal punishments. But unlike us, He doesn’t hold this debt over our heads. He has instead place our debt upon the head of His Son, and His Son has taken it willingly so that we would be forgiven and free.
For reasons all His own God has determined to love us. He has taken the punishment we deserve upon himself. He has given gifts to those whom He knows would take it for granted. This is grace. He is kind, forgiving, steadfast. He is slow to anger and abounding in love. For the kingdom of heaven is entered by grace, by His giving not our earning.
He is allowed to do what He chooses with what belongs to Him. But it doesn’t work the same way with us. For what belongs to us? Nothing. We belong to Him, by water and His Name. He purchased and won us from sin, death, and the devil by His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, so that we would be His own special possession. Thus, we have nothing of our own, it all belongs to Him. We are stewards of what He has given to us. And so we give of ourselves, all that we are and all that we have, to those whom God has placed us to care for in our vocations of members of a family, society, and the church.
And if He has done all this for us, how can we not do with everything that He gave us likewise?