Early Hires

Matthew 20:13 “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?’” (NIV).

Observation: This verse is found within the familiar story of workers hired to labor in a vineyard. Some had been hired early in the morning to work all day for a denarius. Several more times as the day advanced, the owner hired additional men; at day’s end, the foremen distributed wages of one denarius to each man regardless of the length of his workday. The early hires objected to their one-denarius paycheck, claiming it was unfair that others who worked less should be paid the same. But the owner reminded them that there was no unfairness in what they were paid; their wage was exactly as promised at the beginning of their engagement.

Application: Whose side seems right in this exchange? Upon careful reflection, we must confess that the owner is exactly right in what he says to the early hires. Doesn’t he indeed have the right to pay each laborer whatever he wishes for their work?

While it may be easy to concede the owner’s correct response, doesn’t the heart tend toward sympathy with the complaint of the early hires? Despite their agreement to work all day for a denarius, doesn’t something within us empathize with their emotions? Perhaps that is because we too readily think as they think.

When I came to Christ as a single man, there was a time when I declared to God that he alone was more than enough. Each of us, if we have experienced genuine conversion, must have said something akin to that.

Why then, when I see an elderly couple holding hands do I feel pangs of envy as I recall my too-young wife now dead? I must ask myself: Did I mean it when I told the Lord that He is more than enough? For the childless couple struggling with empty playgrounds in their mind, or the family that has lost son or daughter prematurely, thinking of birthdays uncelebrated and grandchildren unborn, the question must be answered afresh. Did I mean it when I said Christ is sufficient? It is in life’s empty moments that I must remember my hiring wage—one denarius for a day’s work, regardless of what others receive. In that breathtaking moment hangs my destiny: to linger in loss and disappointment or to confess again that He is more than enough.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You know each time I have responded like a worker claiming mistreatment. Forgive me, Lord. You are eternally just and righteous in Your provision for my life.

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