It's Not Fair

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by Sarah Barber

There’s this thing in my life. This ugly little creature that hibernates in the corners and crevasses of my heart until it finds the perfect opportunity to re-emerge. I notice it most in seasons when I’m tired, drained and quite honestly, just spent.

I’m currently living in this season.

My husband and I just recently had our third child, and sleep deprivation does not breed excellence in my life. (Count yourself blessed if you can function on four or five hours of sleep!)

Without restful sleep, my soul morphs. I say things I don’t mean and I expect things that aren’t attainable. I’d rather not admit this awful, loathsome creature even exists inside me. But it does. 

Its name is entitlement.

It likes to masquerade itself as spiritual, biblical, and even godly.

But it’s not.

It likes to call itself other names like justice, fairness, or good deeds.

But it’s not.

Entitlement drives this feeling inside me that I deserve better or more. Entitlement says that I’m owed something because of my sacrifice, service or kindness. And when my husband walks in the door from an equally long, stressful day, Entitlement says it’s his fault he never called to see what we needed from the grocery store.

Recently I was reading Life Is ____, by Judah Smith. In the book he highlights the parable of the landowner in Matthew chapter 20. Let me quickly recap it for you.

The landowner goes out early in the morning and hires a bunch of workers for his vineyard. They all agree on the amount they will be paid for their work, and head out into the fields. At the third hour, the landowner decides to hire a few more workers. He does the same thing at the sixth and ninth hour. Finally, at the eleventh hour (one hour before quitting time,) he hires one last group. He tells each group the same thing: “”Trust me, I’ll pay you what is right.”

When the work is done, everyone comes back to get paid. Here’s where the story gets interesting.

The landowner starts with the last group. Remember those guys? The guys that barely broke a sweat and arrived an hour ago? They receive a denarius for their work. Then the paymaster goes through the next three groups of workers and they each receive a denarius.

Finally, he gets to the guys who were there first. The guys who worked all day, labored under the hot, sweltering sun. He extends his hand. “Denarius for you, and for you, and for you…”

At this point in the parable, the first group of workers immediately start complaining. “Hey! What? This isn’t fair! We’ve been here all day long, and those guys over there only worked one hour. You’re going to give them the same as us?!”

Now, let’s pause here for a second. I want to wrestle with two thoughts.

Isn’t it interesting that the landowner insists his paymaster pay the last workers first? Why? It seems like he should have started with the group that he had actually hired at the start of the day—the first workers. Was he trying to frustrate them?

And secondly, at what point do you think entitlement started to seep into the hearts of those first workers? Perhaps in the twelve hours they were out working in the field they had forgotten about their agreement, but I doubt it. The deal was a days work for a denarius. What changed? Why was that suddenly not enough?

Some of us read this parable and think, “Actually, I’d be ticked off too. That doesn’t seem fair. You should earn more if you’ve put in more work. That’s the right thing to do. It’s how the world works”

And I’d agree with you.

I tend to act like and see myself as one of those first workers. I think I deserve more, or at the very least, what is fair for my faithful service, kindness, love, generosity, you name it.

But in reading Judah’s commentary I realized something. I’m one of those eleventh-hour workers.

Don’t miss that. Read it again if you need to.

We’re the folks that cut in line. We’re the ones that barely made the cut. Yet God graciously extends His hand and says, “I’ll take you. You can be mine.”

Entitlement can be sneaky. It’s typically not out-spoken. Instead, it subtly makes its way into our hearts and camps out for as long as we allow ourselves to believe we deserve better.

So let’s stop second guessing God and His goodness. Let’s celebrate that God’s grace is frustrating. It’s not fair. It doesn’t make sense.

And let’s all admit that it’s far more generous than what we deserve.

(Many ideas and excerpts were taken from Life Is ____, by Judah Smith.)