Grading on a Curve

Matthew 20:8 “’Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’”

Observation: The workday was at an end, and it was time for the vineyard foreman to settle up. The owner had hired men at intervals throughout the day, promising the early hires one denarius, a good, normal wage for their work.  Later hires were promised no specific amount, but apparently the employer was known to be fair, so off to the fields they went. As evening came and it was time to distribute wages, the owner instructed his foreman to issue the same pay, a denarius, to each of the men, beginning with those who had worked the least, and ending with those who had been first hired. Seeing his generosity with those hired last, the early workers assumed they would receive more than promised, so they grumbled when their one-denarius pay was given them. But the owner reminded them that their pay was exactly as promised, and asked, “Are you envious because I am generous?” (see Matt. 20:1-15).

Application: This setup should have been spotted a mile away. The owner wanted to make sure their hearts would be tested, so he specifically told the foreman to issue pay in a sequence beginning with the last hires, working his way toward the first. To no one’s surprise, their critical hearts were exposed. The early hires wanted life to be graded on a curve, to get more credit than they had earned. Grading on a curve can seem a wonderful blessing, always a gift of unmerited grace. And sometimes there may indeed be factors in poor class performance. 

Grace is demonstrated in curved grading by desiring to soften the impact of an uncomfortably high proportion of students who performed poorly. The drawback to such grace is that it can lead me to anticipate, like the early hires, that life itself should be graded on a curve. God would have me be content with what I have. I may look with envy at those who have far more and conclude that God has been unfair. But do I reach the same conclusion when I see those who have fared far worse than I? Or, do I suspect there is something wrong with them, that they somehow deserve the hovel, the dirt floor, the constant intestinal parasites?  “Perhaps they haven’t been as smart or as hardworking as I,” I muse.  Pride and jealousy are tricky things to manage. That’s why I must be cleansed of them. But first, my good and gracious God must orchestrate circumstances so as to expose my heart.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I repent of those times when I have looked with envy at those who have more than I, or with disdain at those who struggle with less.  Cause my heart to be content with You, to stop all reliance upon “curves” to find fulfillment. You are sufficient, Lord. I love You.

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