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No Unfair Wages

Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
–Matthew 20:14

In Matthew 20, Jesus told a parable about how God rewards His children: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard” (vv. 1-2). In Jesus’s day, if you were a day laborer and wanted a job, you would go into the town square and wait until somebody chose you to work in his field. So this landowner came out and chose people to work in his vineyard, and he agreed to pay them a denarius.

Now look at verses 3-4: “He went out about the third hour”–that would have been nine o’clock in the morning–“and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’” This time, they did not agree upon a price. The landowner did the same thing at noon, three o’clock, and five o’clock.

Here is where the story gets interesting: “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius” (vv. 8-9).

They were blown away by that. They had only worked one hour in the field, yet they got an entire day’s wage. Word started spreading down the line: “Did you hear? Those guys who worked one hour got a whole denarius!” So the people at the end of the line began computing: if somebody who worked an hour got one denarius, and they had been working twelve hours . . . They thought they were going to make a fortune! But when the foreman came to them, he dropped a single denarius into their hands. In response, they did what any right-thinking person would do: they grumbled. “That is not fair! Why wouldn’t you give us more?”

But the landowner said in verse 13, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?” In other words, “You got what you bargained for. I have not cheated you.” Not only that, he said in verse 15, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?” In other words, “I am free to do with my wealth whatever I want to do with it.” Then he added, “Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” (v. 15). In other words, “Your unhappiness is because you are focused on what other people have.” Comparing what we have to what other people have will always cause discontent.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Lesson In Workman’s Compensation” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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