And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ Matthew 20:11-12 (For the complete story, read verses 1-16)
What a curious and ugly bit of human nature is exposed by this story. We all like to have good things happen to us. We rejoice when we receive a promotion at work, or an unexpected financial blessing, or some undeserved benefit. But when it happens to someone else, our hearts become tainted with envy. We can think of 100 reasons why they didn’t deserve it and we did, convincing ourselves that life (and God) is unfair. Oh let the pity party begin.
But who is our complaining directed against? This story tells us that the laborers grumbled against the master of the house. We may think it is against the apparent unfairness of the situation, but in actuality, it is directed against God. Have we not realized that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above”? This Master who is so generous to others has also been generous to us in 10,000 different ways that we have long since forgotten or become too busy to notice. They forgot that had it not been for the master, they would still be idle in the marketplace with no denarius at all.
However, in spite of the horrible response of the laborers to the generosity of the master, his response to them is “Friend, I am doing you no wrong.”
Friend – the word means comrade (intimate friend or associate) and mate (an assistant to a more skilled worker). This implies that they not only worked for the master, but with the master. They had begun to know him. A relationship was being formed – a benefit of working the whole day with him. But these are the very ones who complain – those who have been laboring with the master the longest, yet apparently do not yet know his heart.
And the saddest part of this story is the master’s words to these complaining laborers in verse 14 – “Take what belongs to you and go.” So now having reviled the kindness of the master, they are sent away from his presence.
Oh let us take this story to heart, being mindful that all we have received from God is a gift of grace. We may live in an entitlement society, but God’s is not an entitlement kingdom, and He is not pleased with those who are angry over His kindness to others.
So let us rejoice with those who rejoice and learn to celebrate the goodness of God, not only in our lives but also in the lives of others.