My neck started to ache as I was jogging backwards on one of the trails behind my high school in northern Minnesota. My gym teacher told me that if I could run the 1.5 miles backwards, then I didn’t have to go to class the next day.
Exhausted, I went up and down those hills, trying not to fall or run into anything. Being an athlete, I was probably a little overconfident in my fitness level. But I had started, so I couldn’t give up.
Eventually I made it back to the front doors and, disoriented, walked forward up the stairs and to his office. “I did it!” I said proudly. “I made it the whole way, without running forward once.” “Nice work, you don’t have to come to class tomorrow,” he replied, “but neither does anybody else.” Then it clicked and I realized how dumb I was.
We didn’t have school the next day.
Granted, it was my own stupidity. But initially I couldn’t help but feel like I got cheated. That it wasn’t fair. I put in all of this extra work and nobody else did. Yet, in the end, they still got the same ‘reward’ as me.
Matthew 20 talks about the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. Early in the morning the master agreed to pay his workers a denarius a day. At different times of the day he continued to hire more workers. At the end of the day everybody got paid the same wage (a denarius), whether they worked 12 hours or whether they worked 1 hour. The workers who worked the entire day thought this wasn’t fair.
The master responded: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or, do you begrudge my generosity? So the last will be first, and the first last.”
This parable is symbolizing heaven and eternal life. Whether someone is saved at an early age, or whether someone is saved on their death bed; they still get the same thing….eternal life. Not only is eternal life offered to the “good Christian” who goes to church every week and has done all of this “work” for God. It’s also offered to the drug and porn addict who thinks he is too dirty and sinful for God. This puts us on a pretty even playing field. Scripture talks about rewards in Heaven, but here on Earth God doesn’t see us in a ranked order.
In the same way that I felt cheated because nobody had to go to school the next day, I also find myself tempted to feel cheated with God too. I’m like the first worker who doesn’t like God’s generosity. I am such a “good Christian” who never does any of those “really bad sins” like other people. Yet, God still extends his same hand of grace to them.
In the opposite way, I think a lot of people don’t feel good enough for God. Partially, probably because of self-righteous people like me who are quick to point out what everyone else is doing wrong, rather than how God loves them and pursues them. People feel like they’ve done too many bad things to be loved. They feel too far gone for grace. They don’t understand that God is calling them back with open arms.
That’s the beauty of the Gospel. Nobody is too far gone for God to rescue them. Nobody has done too many bad things to receive his grace, love and forgiveness. We don’t have to work our way up the ladder to be saved. We don’t have to be “good enough” for Him.
Whether the worst you’ve done is tell a lie or the worst you’ve done is murdered someone, God still loves you and pursues you. His grace doesn’t differentiate between sins nor sinners. God may love people differently, but He doesn’t love them more. Sure, certain actions please God more than others, but you can’t really change those actions without Jesus. You don’t change first and then all of a sudden be worthy enough to call on God. You call on Him first, and let Him change you.
I think we as human beings want to complicate the Gospel. We want to have to work for it. We want to make it more fair. Maybe it’s just my americanized mindset that says I need to earn something good and work my way up the ladder first. It’s hard for us to fathom that eternal life is a gift and we didn’t do anything to deserve it.
Maybe that’s you. Maybe you don’t feel good enough for God’s grace. Maybe you think you’ve missed your chance. Maybe you think you’ve done the unforgivable. Maybe you’re so caught up in drugs, sex and partying that you don’t think someone could possibly still want you. Maybe you see all of those “churchy” people and think you don’t compare. The truth is, God doesn’t see you like that. He is calling you back to Him, no matter what you’ve done. No matter how much you’ve screwed up.
Or maybe you are one of those “churchy” people who begrudge God’s generosity. Maybe if we stopped pointing to people’s sins and starting pointing to their Savior, they would see that they can put their faith in Christ.
No matter where you’re at or what you’ve done, God has enough mercy for you.
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