Message: Comparison is the thief of joy. When the landowner hired the workers in verse 2, they were in agreement to work the whole day for one denarius. At the end of the day they saw the other workers receive the same pay as them for less work. This caused an expectation in their minds that they would and should receive more than they agreed on. When it didn’t happen they became angry and they fought with the land owner. This is such a tough story, and also a very real one. The land owner represents God in this story. I believe the interpretation for this story is really about salvation. At the end of the day, those who have been saved and living in surrender for one day will receive the same eternity as those who have lived a surrendered life for 50 years. I don’t know about anyone else, but this is not necessarily the point of contention for me. For me the comparison struggle comes when I know God is requiring something of me, while someone else is seemingly getting away with bad behavior toward me. When I know that God is requiring me to humble myself and apologize to someone else who is living unrestrained in their behavior and is not sorry about it even a little bit. This is where the “it’s not fair” wants to rise up in me. It could also be looking at blessings that other people receive, or maybe it’s hardship and struggle. It’s tempting to look around and make comparisons with other people and feel like God owes us something. This internal angst rises up and causes us to feel like we have not been given a fair shot, or like God is withholding something from us. Our minds are way too crafty though, so we will never admit that we are mad at God. We convince ourselves that we’re mad at people who we feel have held us back or robbed us of blessing or opportunity.
Command: Live life in obedience to God without comparison, but also keep those expectations in check! I know that God is a fair and just God, but even if he wasn’t -God owes me absolutely nothing and has the right to bless whomever he chooses. My response to that is a direct reflection of the condition of my own heart.
Promise: God delivers on what he promises, and he is more generous to me than I will ever deserve!
Warning: Comparisons lead to expectations, and expectations lead to discontentment.
Application: This is a daily heart check. I have to stay focused on my own walk with God and where he is leading me. I can’t be distracted or tripped up by what is going on with anyone else, except to be either inspired by them, or to be an encourager and to empower other people who are also walking this out. When I feel that quiet distance from God creeping in I need to address it immediately and not allow it to continue. That quiet distance is a result of discontentment and I need to address the expectation behind it.