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A Gift, Not a Right

Weekly Devotionals

A Gift, Not a Right

The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

Mathew 20:15 “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own?” KJV

In the book of Mathew (Chapter 20:1~16), Jesus tells the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. Long story short, the landowner pays the same amount to the workers who labored all day as well as to the ones who worked just at the tail end of the day. Those who worked more grumble, and the owner basically says “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what’s mine?”.

For the longest time, I could never really understand this parable.  And if I did understand it, then I surely couldn’t accept this seeming injustice. After all, shouldn’t the one who worked the most, rightfully receive more? What kind of justice is this? I could just imagine the social and economic chaos built on such an incoherent system. Astute workers, who took notice of this, might as well just not show up the next day until late in the afternoon! The system would simply break down…

So there was an indignation borne out of a sense of injustice and a consequent confusion, knowing that, one of God’s attributes is to be just.

Until I realized one tiny detail.

Implicit in my (and the laborers) indignation, was a monumental and unstated assumption. That the work given to the laborers was their right…

But it was not their right. It was a privilege granted to them by the master, who owned everything. And that makes all the difference…Once we understand that that work was a gift, it pivots our indignation to simply a posture of gratitude, whether you worked all day or the last two minutes of the day.

We live in a time where the narrative of individual rights is so pervasive, that often times we take it to the wrong direction, to a level of self-entitlement. And self-entitlement only leads to one kind of statement: a loud, me centered,  “I deserve it”. Of course some rights are genuine and we should pursue them accordingly, but often times, if we really are honest, many things that we enjoy in life are simply gifts not of our doing: our families, our work, our health, the period of peace that we live in. And if it’s a gift, our response can only be of appreciation.

I hope and pray that our community walks counter culturally, from a me-centered “I deserve it” paradigm, to a God centered “Thank you, Lord” lifestyle. It will change everything.