Sermon Notes--"It's Not Fair"


Matthew 20:1-15

Introduction: Parents, grandparents, teachers, how many of you have heard the following phrase more than once? “That’s not fair.”  

 “It’s Not Fair” Children’s Book-The book I just read was full of examples of childlike unfairness.  We can see the book’s silliness (sharing, hair (curly or straight), parenting, teams, legs, eggs, eyes, rings, wings, books that end too soon). Yet, we as adults also engage in similar silliness.  Think about how you react when a co-worker gets a promotion that you worked hard for and deserved.  Think about the classmate who jumps from job to job and is always involved in some form of recreation and you work hard and don’t have the time and/or money to do the things they do. Or even what about our reaction when someone who has done “bad things” chooses to follow Christ at the end of their life?  Do we too grumble, “it’s not fair”?

In this parable (earthly story with a heavenly meaning), what does Jesus want us to understand about His kingdom?  We get a hint by what verses sandwich this parable-19:30 & 20:16- last will be first, and the first will be last. Jesus is about to share something very different than what they expected.  Let’s look at the parable-Read Matthew 20:1-15

What (Vs. 1-12)

·         Vs. 1-Landowner hired men to work in his vineyard

o   Workers-They depended for their livelihood on being hired each day[1]

·         Vs. 2-He agreed to pay them a denarius--normal pay for day’s work[2]-begins at sunrise/6 a.m.

·         Vs. 3-5-Hired more at third hour (9 a.m.), sixth hour (noon),  9th hour (3 p.m.)

o   but said that he would give whatever is right-They probably understood him to mean that he would pay the right proportion of a denarius.[3]

o   Notice something—Does he need more workers?  We don’t know for sure, but it seems the focus is on “needs of the workers rather than the needs of the landowner [4]

·         Vs. 6-7-11th Hour (5 p.m.)-He asked “Why have you been standing here doing nothing?”

o    “Because no one hired us”-not laziness or lack of trying, but no offers

·         Vs. 8-9-When evening came, owner called foreman to pay wages-last ones hired first

o   All received a denarius

§  pleasantly surprised at getting a full day’s wage.

§  Vs. 10-11-Those hired first grumbled “It’s Not Fair” 

§  Do they have a right to complain? If I were them, I would be complaining too.

o   Vs. 11-to grumble v. — to make complaining remarks or noises under one’s breath. The verb is the imperfect tense, which indicates continuing process; the grumbling went on.15[5]

o   Vs. 12-“equal to us”-dignity, worth, honor, like, same

o   Vs. 12-They felt that they had not been treated fairly-- they had borne the burden of the day and the burning heat.18 The thrust of the complaint is thus twofold: the latecomers did very little work, and what they did they did under the best conditions in the cool of the day[6]

Who (Vs. 13-15)

·         Vs. 13-Friend, I am not being unfair.

o   On his side there was no malice or hard feeling; the man who had worked for him all day was his friend. Then he pointed out that there was no injustice: “I do you no wrong.”[7]

o   It could not be denied that he had acted within the law. Some translations say “what is lawful” the owner explains that he treated them with justice (v. 13), appeal to the Pharisees

·         Vs. 14-I want to give…

o    the story celebrates his incalculable goodness to his children. Just as surely as they do not deserve it, he has the right to freely bestow it (vv. 14–15).[8]

·          Vs. 15-Generous

o   begrudging heart evil eye n. — a covetous or envious heart; conceived of as a glance…that wreaks various degrees of harm on its object.

o   How is God generous to us? Mercy, wisdom, power, kindness, patience, provision, goodness, faithfulness, salvation, grace, love

o   This parable is similar to parable of Prodigal God I preached on- perspective towards what God is now doing is chiefly in focus; what he is doing is good and to be rejoiced in.[9]

Why (Vs. 1)

·         Vs. 1-For the kingdom of heaven is like…

o   Kingdom- (domain) n. — the domain ruled by a king or queen.

·         This story scarcely models good management-labor practices but does disclose profound truths about the nature of God[10]

§  Merit-All human merit shrivels before his burning, self-giving love. There are no rankings in the kingdom of God. Nobody can claim deserved membership of the kingdom.[11] no degrees of reward in heaven.[12]

·         all blessings are gifts and that we have no claim to them by our own merit[13]

·         Not my merit but Jesus’ merit-One’s standing in the kingdom of God does not depend on human merit in any way whatsoever. It depends on the sheer unmerited favour of the only one who is ultimately good and who accepts those who could never be good, in order that this free grace may produce in them genuinely good works. These good works are not meritorious deeds for life: they are responsive, grateful behaviour springing from the life that God in his generosity has given them.[14]

§  Salvation-There is a tendency in the human race to think of salvation in legal terms…It is natural for us to think that we can earn our salvation…. Or we can think of salvation is mathematical terms: adding up the good deeds and the bad ones and coming out with salvation or loss according to whether the balance is on the credit or debit side. Salvation is always a work of grace.[15]

Closing: The reason we object to equal treatment for all--it doesn’t seem fair. But we are fools if we appeal to God for justice rather than grace…[16]

            Karma is fair.  You get what you deserve.

Grace is not fair. Not only do you not get what you deserve (judgment, wrath, death), but you receive what you don’t deserve (Mercy, wisdom, power, kindness, patience, provision, goodness, faithfulness, salvation, grace, love). Grace is not fair but it is definitely good news. God acts toward you and me in sheer grace. Grace, amazing grace, is the burden of this story…[17]



[1] Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (p. 499). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.
[2] Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (p. 500). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.
[3] Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (p. 500). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.
[4] Nolland John. (2005). Preface. In The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 807). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
[5] Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (p. 502). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.
[6] Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (p. 502). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.
[7] Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (p. 503). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.
[8] Chamblin, J. K. (1995). Matthew. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 746). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
[9] Nolland John. (2005). Preface. In The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 813). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
[10] Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 303). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[11] Green, M. (2001). The message of Matthew: the kingdom of heaven (p. 212). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[12] Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 304). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[13] Spurgeon, C. H. (1856). Divine Sovereignty. In The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 2, p. 185). London: Passmore & Alabaster.
[14] Green, M. (2001). The message of Matthew: the kingdom of heaven (pp. 212–213). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[15] Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (pp. 504–505). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.
[16] Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 305). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[17] Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (p. 499). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.

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