By Laury L. Davis
“It will sure be embarrassing if you don’t end up going,” my son said as he piled into the car, handing me supplies donated for an upcoming mission trip.
“Thanks for pointing that out,” I replied, humored yet perturbed.
I was scheduled to leave for a mission trip to India in three days. Prayer support had been rallied, funding secured, plane tickets purchased—but my visa? Delayed at the Indian consulate.
I decided to pray and pack and even show up at the airport, though I wouldn’t know God’s perfect plan until the last minute. Such is the surrendered life of a servant of God. We are on a need-to-know basis with the creator of the universe, and apparently the future details of our lives on earth are something we don’t need to know. Ours is a walk of faith.
What Is Fair?
I heard it often as a child: “Life isn’t fair.” In my head I screamed back, But we should do our best to make it fair! As an adult I realize how difficult that can be. Some people will have more than we do and some will have less. Fairness rarely is a problem unless you are the one with less.
In Matthew 25:14-29, a master entrusted his servants with something of value. They were each given an opportunity, according to their abilities, to enrich the master’s kingdom. As followers of Christ we too are entrusted with opportunities to contribute to our Master’s kingdom. Our opportunities vary greatly and don’t always look like blessings.
In Philippians 3:4-8, Paul lists many reasons he could boast but concludes, ”Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB).
Are you able to boast about your physical, financial, or circumstantial weaknesses? What shortcomings might give you a special opportunity to highlight God’s strength?
Note that each servant’s allotment was a task, not a gift. This perspective will influence what we ask for in life. Opportunities lead to responsibility.
When it comes to each servant’s allocation, we must remember, “A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; all the weights of the bag are His concern” (Proverbs 16:11). It isn’t our place to explain, justify, or even understand God’s mysterious ways. Some things are just not our business, and it should be a relief to abdicate the weight of this matter.
I have attended church services three times a week for more than 40 years and have never heard a message on Matthew 20:1-16. Why? I believe it’s because it goes against the grain of American culture.
We value fairness. We expect people to get exactly what they deserve, not much more and certainly no less. The landowner in the parable paid the workers who worked a full day the same wage as those who worked only part of the day. Our sense of fairness is challenged and God meant to do so.
When compared to what was agreed upon at the beginning of the day, the landowner’s payment seems just. It only begins to seem unfair when compared to what the other workers received.
Why did the landowner pay every worker the same wage? Matthew 20:15 tells us he was motivated by generosity. The discontentment of those who worked all day was rooted in jealousy. They thought the landowner should have been even more generous toward them.
In part it’s a matter of perspective. We most often view the situation in the parable from the perspective of the laborer, not the landowner. The Bible tells us, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever” (Romans 11:36).
It’s about God, not us. We are challenged to say, “Look at my generous Master. He is so kind and good.” It’s not always easy to say, but it’s always right.
When the seeming inequalities of life threaten to dishearten, it helps to remember the greatest disparity of all: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
We rest in the fact that “His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Embracing this truth leads to peace even in the most distressing circumstances.
Taking Stock, Getting to Work
We live in this time and in this place with great stewardship responsibilities before us—opportunities to glorify God with all we have. God doesn’t bless us simply to promote our ease. We have a responsibility to turn worldly wealth into heavenly treasure. It’s the eternal equivalent of spinning straw into gold.
Revelation 21 describes a holy city with streets of gold. This detail goes beyond the beauty of Heaven to illustrate the value of this world’s most precious possession. It should cause us to reevaluate what we cherish. If you have been entrusted with earthly treasure, put it into perspective. In the eternal realm it is the straw that will burn, unless you turn it into something greater (see 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Matthew 6:19, 20).
Will the things you value be relegated to the burn pile? If so, you have the opportunity today to rev up the spinning wheel and start turning your straw into gold—heavenly treasure that will not suffer decay.
“Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls” (Romans 14:4). I cannot compare myself or my stewardship with anyone else. It is the Master’s business alone.
I may have questions, and my patient Master allows me to ask, just like Job and many of the psalmists. I must be prepared, however, to go on even if I don’t get answers in this life. My faith is in my Master alone, not in his response to my requests—that my visa for my mission trip will come, that my dying friend will be healed, that my prayers will be answered just as I have asked. I must trust in God’s generous heart.
As a submissive servant, my job is to be a good steward and believe God will take care of the rest:
In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. . . . Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God (1 Corinthians 4:2, 5).
By the way, on September 10, 2013, my visa was delivered to my house—five hours before my flight to India. Thankfully, I was packed.
Laury L. Davis is a freelance writer in Memphis, Tennessee.
Think back through your day—or week or month. Make a brutally honest list of ideas, events, statements, or circumstances that you felt were quite simply unfair.
Examine the list. What does it show about who you are—good and bad? What does it show about who God is—from warm attributes to qualities that are a little harder to swallow?
Pray that God will reconcile your worldview to his.