Grumbling at Grace (Matthew 20:1-16)

If you are honest with yourself you cry out with the first hour laborers, “Hey, not fair!” Jesus, as Nathan did David, causes us to indict ourselves. This is what this parable reveals about every fallen son of Adam—we hate grace! Adam wanted to be like God, and he wanted to be like God because he did something.

Douglas Wilson uses the following illustration. Say it is family movie night. Your wife is getting the movie ready, the children are getting situated just right, and you go to the kitchen. You make one of your children a big bowl, the biggest bowl of ice cream they have ever had. What do your other children say? “Hey!” The first child looks at their siblings with a insincerely confused look that asks, “What’s the big deal? The universe is as it should be. Shalom has come.” So you go back into the kitchen to make each of the protestors even bigger bowls. What then does the first child say? “Hey!” The issue isn’t the amount of ice cream in his bowl, but the amount in everyone else’s. The issue is the same as that of the “man” in Matthew 19:16-22, namely, covetousness, which is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5).

The point of this parable isn’t that heaven is a communist regime where everyone gets one scoop. The first hour-ers complain that they have been made equal but really they haven’t. The point here isn’t equality. It’s more radical than that. The point is that the last are first and the first are last. One group gets paid a Benjamin per hour, while another gets seven and a quarter. Things are not equal. But things are just. The first hour-ers think they are demanding justice, but really they are grumbling against grace. They howl, “We deserve grace too, No! we deserve more grace!” But that is as nonsensical as a child throwing a temper tantrum saying, “But I wanted a square circle!” Deserved grace isn’t even on the level of a mythical creature. God could create a unicorn should He desire to do so. Deserved grace however is a logical impossibility. As soon as grace becomes deserved it un-defines itself.

What is the point? Those who receive the most grace, receive the most grace. No one can bark against that. If it is justice you desire, you may have it, hot and eternal. So, next time you worship with God’s little ones, look around. Is there anyone there that it would bother you if they got a bigger bowl of ice cream from the Father?

If you are properly seeking the reward, this means you are seeking the biggest possible thing God could give you—Himself. This means when God glorifies Himself in being gracious to the least, you get exactly what you want—God glorified. It does not matter where the grace is dumped. God is glorified, and thus, you are satisfied. There is no grumble in your stomach. There is no grumble in your mouth. Grace anywhere, is grace everywhere to little ones.

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