This morning in church we learned about the next – and in my opinion most important – tool in our Christian toolbox. Grace. It is the one thing that sets the Christian faith apart from every other religion in the world.
Pr. Dave told a story of a high school youth pastor who took his group of Christian teens on a field trip to discover what made Christianity unique. They first went to a mosque and spoke to an Imam about Islam. When asked to share what the core of the Islamic faith was, the Imam answered, “We believe above all else that God is just and that people will get what they deserve.”
Next, the youth pastor took the teens to a synagogue to speak to a rabbi about Judaism. When asked the share what the core of the Jewish faith was, the rabbi answered, “We believe above all else that God is just and that people will get what they deserve.” In Jesus day, the Pharisees would have said the same thing.
In many churches that profess Christ today, you will hear the same message on a Sunday morning. You will hear that God is just and that we all receive what we deserve. But that is not the Gospel and it is not what Jesus taught. Jesus taught grace.
The Gospel reading for this morning was Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the workers in the vineyard. This has always been one of my favorite parables. It has a great practical application about being content with what we have been given and not comparing ourselves to others. But it also contains within it the lesson of grace. In this parable, each worker receives the same pay at the end of the day, whether he worked all 12 hours of the day or only the last hour. It did not matter to the landowner that the workers who came later deserved less or that those who had been there all day deserved more. Each worker was blessed in the same way because of the generosity and grace of the landowner.
In the same way, God gives the gift of grace to all who simply come to Him and accept the gift. None of us deserve this gift, but God is generous and gracious and so He gives.
In the parable, the workers who had been there all day thought it was unfair that the latecomers got the same pay. I think sometimes those who have followed the rules as best they could all their lives, who have been brought up in a Christian home and always known the Lord, can feel like it is unfair for those who come to faith late to receive the same exact gift of grace from God. And they are probably right – it’s not fair.
That is the truly wonderful thing about God’s grace – it is unfair. We do not get what we deserve. Even though we all at some point push God away and choose our own way, He is merciful and gracious, and He loves us anyway. We all deserve to be left to our own devices, eternally separated from our Holy God.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:4-9 (NIV).
I don’t know about you, but I am truly thankful that grace is unfair. I pray that the knowledge of God’s immeasurable grace will lead me to be gracious to others and to share God’s grace with them.