Grace is Not a Zero-Sum Game

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,

The parable of the workers in the vineyard upsets me, and I think God wants it to upset me to teach me a lesson. The laborers all receive the same pay regardless of their work. Shouldn’t those who worked more have been paid more? This seems like the very core of social justice: equal work for equal pay.

The owner of the vineyard deliberately pays the last workers first; this is an important detail. He wants the workers who have been there all day to see that those who arrived at the last hour also received the regular daily wage. They are meant to see the generosity of the landowner on display.

Their complaint shows their wounded pride: “These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.” Are we not better than them? The landowner is accused of injustice because he made all equal in his sight regardless of their actions.

This is precisely what God has done for us in forgiving all our sins equally and loving us all equally. We should rejoice in the generosity of God’s mercy, for we surely have not been the hardest laborers in God’s vineyard. We should be thankful that God has had mercy on those who were most in need of mercy, some of whom are our family and friends—our loved ones. We would want God to be merciful to our son or daughter even if they were the worst of sinners. Shouldn’t we be thankful for God’s generosity? Shouldn’t we understand God’s boundless grace for all His beloved children? We are all equal in God’s sight because we are all His beloved children.

Grace is not a zero-sum game. We lose nothing if God is generous with others. Indeed, we gain brothers and sisters for eternity in heaven. So rejoice and be glad when God is generous to sinners, for God loves sinners like us.

Peace in Christ,

Father Matthew Kuhn

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