Grumbling Against Grace
An Insider’s View of Grace
by Larry d. Wright
“…so they complained against the landowner.”
In one of His most controversial parables, Jesus told the story of a landowner who hired laborers to work in his vineyard. Although the workers entered the field at different times, at the end of the day the landowner paid them all the same wages.
No other parable generates heated discussion like this one about the controversial generosity of a gracious vineyard owner. Jesus shared this parable to reveal the true nature of the kingdom and the generosity of its King. The heart of this parable centers on the radical, outrageous, even exasperating, nature of God’s grace.
Yet, this parable offends our sense of equality and slices across our demand for justice. It doesn’t seem fair that all the workers received the same wages in light of the fact they entered the field at different times.
Most of us, like the disciples who first heard this teaching of Jesus, are “insiders”. Insiders are often appalled at who the King allows to enter His kingdom and shocked at how He runs His vineyard. No one would dare say it openly, but often insiders think private thoughts like:
“What is the benefit of sitting in church Sunday after Sunday listening to sermons about right and wrong when some outsider Johnny-come-lately can waltz into the kingdom and be treated by the King the same as the rest of us? I have been a Bible-believing, church attending, nose-to-the-grindstone Christian for as long as I can remember. I entered the vineyard at 6:00 AM and you tell me that some straggler enters at the eleventh hour and they are paid the same as me? Who do they thing they are?”
Grumbling against grace. It isn’t new and neither is it dead!
Insiders question the fairness of a worker who enters the field at the eleventh hour but actually, that’s not the real question. The more applicable question is, “What do you think God is really like?” The kingdom is not about the subjects. It is about the King. The purpose of this parable is to reveal the gracious heart of the Father while exposing the selfish heart of the early workers, the insiders.
John Wesley was once expelled from an English pulpit for extolling the virtues of the grace of God. Following that occasion he said, “There are few matters more repugnant to people who rely on reason that the grace of God.” He has a solid point. Justice is logical but grace is rarely reasonable.
We love grace when it rules in our favor but when someone we feel undeserving becomes the recipient of grace, well, that’s when we grumble. Like the elder brother, insiders complain when the Father acts graciously when the younger brother returns from the playground of sin. Insiders feel that staying home, even with a corrupt attitude, should count for something. Insiders want the prodigals to return home but the idea of receiving them as slaves, not sons, sounds more appealing. From the insider viewpoint, there are some people who don’t deserve grace. Those who arrive late need to work in the field and be ruled by the insiders who arrived early.
The kingdom of God doesn’t operate like a business and the King in not the keeper of some stately ledger recording credits and debits. The King operates His kingdom based on the reign of grace, not some distorted view of human justice. The owner of the vineyard in by nature gracious, therefore the workers in His field must relate to Him on a covenant of grace, not contractual agreement.
You can grumble against grace if you like but it will not change the King. He will not cease to be Who He is…outrageously gracious!
Florence, Alabama


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   June 2019   
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