Faith Chapel

Grace Is Unfair

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Mike Leno


Series Code: FC

Program Code: FC000041

00:30 Carlene Gallagher is a waitress at a swanky Chicago restaurant.
00:37 One day, she went to work feeling really blue.
00:40 Everything in her life seemed to be going wrong.
00:42 She was a single mother having to support a couple of boys
00:45 without any help from their father
00:46 and it just seemed like her life was going nowhere.
00:50 Well, waitresses are usually not supposed to pour out
00:53 their stories to their costumers,
00:56 but on this particular occasion,
00:58 the restaurant was not very busy
01:00 and there was a-- an executive there.
01:03 The owner president of a very wealthy company,
01:07 his name was John Bac.
01:10 And he was there in the restaurant
01:11 that day and Carlene was serving his table.
01:16 He apparently noticed that maybe she was not having
01:19 as good a day as she might, and so he asked her--
01:23 he asked her to tell him what was going on
01:25 and she kind of hesitantly poured out her story.
01:30 Well, before his meal was even over with,
01:33 he handed her a tip of $1,000.
01:38 When she realized what it was, she came back to his table
01:42 and tearfully thanked him for what he had just given her.
01:48 Well, he reached into his wallet at that point,
01:51 pulled out a whole wad of credit cards and fanned them out like
01:55 playing cards and said, "Here, pick a card."
01:59 And Carlene, not knowing really what to expect next,
02:02 reached forward and slowly pulled
02:05 a VISA platinum card out of his hand.
02:09 "There you are," said John.
02:10 "Go give yourself a $10,000 tip."
02:14 She was overwhelmed.
02:16 How could this possibly be?
02:18 But it was true.
02:20 And, of course, you can be sure the credit card company
02:22 wanted to make sure it was legitimate too,
02:23 and they followed up and they checked on it and sure enough,
02:26 John Bac had just tipped his waitress
02:29 Carlene $11,000
02:32 in one day.
02:37 Grace is unfair.
02:41 Grace has nothing to do with fairness.
02:48 Grace belongs to a very strange economy, all its own,
02:54 because it's not based on what you deserve.
02:58 I'm sure there were a number of other worthy
03:02 restaurant waitresses that day, in that restaurant
03:06 as many--as well as many others in the same city.
03:10 And yet, Carlene got the $11,000 tip.
03:18 Had she earned it?
03:20 No, she hadn't.
03:22 Her client had simply given it to her because
03:26 he wanted to be generous.
03:29 He could have given his money to anybody else
03:30 but he gave it to her because he wanted to,
03:33 because he wanted to be generous.
03:39 The economy of grace is so different
03:43 than what we expect, that even back in the Old Testament,
03:46 God foresaw a time when he would explain
03:51 more completely his relationship with his people in ways
03:56 that didn't involve legal requirements.
04:03 Let's turn to Jeremiah 31:31 to 34,
04:09 "'The time is coming, declares the Lord,
04:10 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
04:14 and with the house of Judah.
04:15 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers
04:18 when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,
04:21 because they broke my covenant,
04:23 though I was a husband to them,' declares the Lord.
04:25 'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
04:28 after that time,' declares the Lord.
04:30 'I will put my law in their minds
04:32 and write it on their hearts.
04:33 I will be their God, and they will be my people.
04:36 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
04:38 or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'
04:41 because they will all know me, from the least of them
04:44 to the greatest,' declares the Lord.
04:46 'For I will forgive their wickedness
04:48 and will remember their sins no more.'"
04:54 In spite of failure, God does not give up.
04:58 He didn't give up on the Israelites,
05:00 He doesn't give up on you and me.
05:02 He wants something even better than before.
05:06 He wants a relationship where law and rules and control
05:13 are not imposed from that outside.
05:17 Rather he wants us to be so close to Him
05:21 that He can say that His law is written
05:24 on hearts and our minds.
05:27 He wants to move from external control to internal control.
05:32 So much so that it won't even be necessary for another person
05:34 to tell you to know the Lord.
05:36 You will know Him already.
05:38 You see, the kingdom of grace turns everything upside down.
05:42 It even changes the way we relate to law.
05:45 But where it changes things most,
05:47 is in the way we relate to God.
05:49 Remember the rich young ruler?
05:51 We talked about the rich young ruler in our last session
05:53 together and how his paradigm of merit just crumbled
05:57 when Jesus challenged it.
06:00 And he had to change to a paradigm of grace,
06:03 and when he couldn't do that, he went away feeling very sad.
06:07 Jesus was trying to point out that this system
06:09 of gaining salvation by your own effort was hopeless.
06:12 "As hard as trying to get a camel
06:15 through the eye of needles," said Jesus.
06:17 He then assured the disciples that, in fact,
06:19 they were part of His kingdom,
06:21 they had left everything and were following Him.
06:25 Why is it so hard to understand the kingdom of grace?
06:29 Maybe it's because like the rich young ruler,
06:30 we don't expect anything we don't work for.
06:35 "That's just the way life is," we say.
06:36 "You reap what you sow, no more no less."
06:39 "Don't do me any favors, don't give me any charity."
06:44 That's life, that's what we expect.
06:48 But what happens when we use that sort of logic with God?
06:51 I know that heaven is a good place,
06:54 and well, the alternative, I'd like to avoid that,
06:57 so I'll do what I need to do.
06:59 I'll buckle down, I'll put my nose to the grindstone,
07:02 I don't expect to like it but that's just the way life
07:05 is and maybe it'll be worth it someday.
07:09 Then, along comes Jesus telling stories that just blow
07:12 our little paradigms and logical system to bits.
07:15 He talks about children who haven't even lived long
07:18 enough to earn anything.
07:20 "Of such are the kingdom of heaven," He says.
07:22 He talks about crippled people, beggars, tax collectors,
07:25 even prostitutes as if it was easy to give salvation to them.
07:31 And then he makes things practically impossible
07:33 for a good clean young man who keeps
07:35 the commandments and is successful.
07:38 The kingdom of grace is unfair.
07:41 It turns everything upside down.
07:44 It's good news if you're a spiritual cripple,
07:47 but if you think you have it all together,
07:49 it's not good news at all.
07:53 Grace is so unfair that it actually
07:55 has nothing to do with fairness.
07:58 It has everything to do with God's love and the fact
08:00 that He's ready to give you salvation
08:03 right now as an outright gift, and it's a gift
08:06 worth far more than just an $11,000 tip.
08:12 But here's a question.
08:16 Why work if it doesn't pay anything?
08:18 In other words, if all my effort and all my work
08:21 and my keeping the commandments
08:23 and being a good little Christian and all of that,
08:28 if it doesn't pay me anything, then why do it?
08:32 Why be good if it's not worth it?
08:35 You see, there is a fear here, and it's a fear
08:39 that drives a lot of our controversies over grace.
08:41 And the fear is simply that, if we take away rewards
08:44 and punishments, the external controls
08:47 that we exert on people, we are afraid
08:51 we'll motivate people to be careless.
08:54 We're afraid of encouraging people to sin all the more.
08:58 After all, if you can sin and get away with it,
09:00 then what's stopping us?
09:04 On that particular point, Jesus told a very interesting story,
09:07 right after this encounter with the rich young ruler.
09:11 He talked about people getting paid out of proportion
09:14 to the amount of work they did.
09:16 Let's turn to that area of the Bible,
09:19 and this is found in Matthew 20 and this is the story
09:23 of the workers in the vineyard.
09:26 Jesus told a story of workers
09:29 who were hired early in the morning.
09:31 The landowner went down to the marketplace
09:35 and he looked for people who were out of work.
09:38 And he found some and he said, "Come work in my vineyard."
09:41 And so they started to work first thing in the morning.
09:44 He went down in the middle of the morning
09:45 and he found more people who were out of work
09:47 and he said, "Why don't you come,"
09:49 and "why don't you go to work for me?"
09:51 And so they did.
09:52 He went down in the middle of the day and he found
09:54 more people who were out of work.
09:57 "Come to work," he said. "Okay."
10:00 He did this throughout the day and for each person
10:04 that he hired, he said "I will give you a certain wage."
10:07 And in those days, it was called a denarius
10:09 which was sometimes translated a penny, but, really,
10:13 it was what a full day's work was worth.
10:18 And for each person that he hired
10:20 throughout the day, no matter at what time he hired them,
10:24 according to Jesus' parable, he promised them a denarius.
10:29 So at the end of the day, he had a wide variety of people
10:34 who had been hired at different times during the day,
10:36 and according to the parable, the landowner
10:39 did this in a very interesting sequence.
10:43 He paid the people who came to work last, first.
10:50 So at the front of the line, everybody's
10:51 lined up to get their wages, at the front of the line
10:54 is a person who just came to work an hour earlier.
10:58 And he comes up to the table to get his wage,
11:00 and the landowner hands over his wages
11:03 and it's a full day's wage.
11:06 And he turns away just ecstatic, he's so happy.
11:10 And the next person comes up, same thing.
11:13 The next person comes up, same thing.
11:14 And finally, the last person who had been working all day
11:18 in the vineyard comes up to the landowner
11:22 and is paid the same thing.
11:26 Now as you can imagine, there was a rather
11:28 interesting reaction amongst the workers.
11:31 And we read about that in Matthew 20: 11.
11:36 "When they received it, they began
11:37 to grumble against the landowner.
11:42 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,'
11:45 they said, 'and you have made them equal to us
11:48 who have borne the burden of the work
11:50 and the heat of the day.'"
11:54 They were not happy with Jesus.
11:57 And Jesus, as He's telling the story,
12:02 you can imagine how the hearers are suddenly
12:06 realizing that Jesus is actually putting Himself
12:09 in the place of the landowner.
12:14 And if they were very perceptive, they realized
12:18 that what Jesus is actually talking about,
12:20 are people who've been in the faith all their lives.
12:24 Those are the ones who've been working in the vineyard all day.
12:27 And those who just come in, who just hear about
12:32 the message and who just become faithful
12:35 at the very end of the day,
12:38 those are the people who, in the parable,
12:40 are those who've been working just an hour.
12:44 Well, the landowner responds
12:46 and we find his response in Matthew 20:15.
12:52 "Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money?
12:55 Or..." and notice this, "Are you envious
12:58 because I am generous?"
13:01 Verse 16, "'so the last will be first,
13:05 and the first will be last.'"
13:10 It's unfair.
13:12 I mean, who among us can't help but sympathize
13:16 a little bit, at least, with those workers
13:18 who came to work at the beginning
13:22 of the day and worked all day?
13:24 Who among us can't sympathize, at least a little bit,
13:28 with those who grumbled against the landowner
13:30 because he paid everybody the same,
13:31 no matter how much work they did?
13:34 Put yourself in the place of a worker who goes to work
13:37 at 6 o'clock in the morning and you work all day
13:41 until 6 o'clock at night, 12 hours.
13:46 And you have been out there in the heat of the day,
13:48 you've gotten dirty and dusty and your back is aching
13:54 and you receive your wage and it's the same thing
13:57 as someone else who worked only an hour.
14:04 I submit that that's exactly the reaction that Jesus
14:07 was trying to get from His hearers.
14:09 I suspect that there were two groups listening to Jesus.
14:13 There were people who were laborers but were out of work.
14:18 They wanted work but perhaps they couldn't get it.
14:20 They probably had difficulty getting a job
14:23 even when they needed one.
14:24 They understood how precious it was to have a job
14:27 in the vineyard and they could understand
14:29 the wonderful opportunity just to be given a job,
14:32 even if it was at the last minute.
14:35 They would have been grateful for their wages,
14:37 no matter what it was because they wanted a job.
14:40 But there was another group of people
14:42 that were probably listening to Jesus,
14:44 and these were the wealthy landowners
14:46 who used money to motivate their workers.
14:50 They expected laziness and insubordination.
14:55 They would not have understood the kingdom of grace,
14:57 especially in a vineyard context.
14:59 They would only pay people according
15:01 to how much work they did.
15:04 And these are the ones that would not have understood
15:06 what Jesus was saying and would have been scandalized
15:11 by Jesus' economy of grace.
15:17 Now I have to admit, I've had a hard time
15:19 explaining this parable sometimes.
15:20 I was teaching a group of junior high school students one time,
15:25 and we came to this parable and out of desperation,
15:29 I finally hit upon a way to explain
15:32 and I've discovered that adults also identify
15:36 with this in a certain way.
15:37 What I said to the kids was,
15:38 "I want you to imagine your fantasy job."
15:42 Okay, these are kids just in 9th, 10th grades, perhaps,
15:46 and I said, "Now I want you to imagine,
15:50 you can have whatever job you want, your fantasy job.
15:53 Is it a movie star, maybe a football star
15:57 or something like that.
15:59 I want you to imagine the fantasy job.
16:02 Now what if someone came to you right now and said,
16:05 'I'll hire you to do this job?'
16:08 Football star, jet pilot, movie star, whatever it is.
16:12 'I'll hire you for today.
16:14 You can have the job.'
16:16 And now let's suppose that you got that job
16:19 and you can hardly wait to get started.
16:20 But suppose that you didn't know about the job
16:23 until it was late in the afternoon,
16:24 the day is almost done but nevertheless
16:28 you didn't know anything about it and the person
16:31 doing the hiring comes to you and says,
16:33 'I know the day is almost over
16:34 but if you'll do this fantasy job,
16:37 I'll hire you for the rest of the day.'
16:40 Wouldn't you jump at the chance?
16:43 Would you care how much you were being paid?
16:45 This is the job of your dreams,
16:47 this is something you want to do.
16:51 And what would you feel that you missed out on,
16:54 if you were paid the same as someone
16:57 who started at the beginning of the day?"
17:02 Actually the amount paid really wouldn't matter.
17:06 If you were hired late in the day,
17:08 you would feel gypped because you would rather
17:12 have had that job for the whole day, instead of just part of it.
17:17 You see, those who value the job,
17:20 those who want to be in the master's vineyard,
17:25 for them, the wages are immaterial.
17:30 Those who reject grace because it takes away
17:33 the motive for doing good and not really
17:38 doing good anyway, certainly not out of the right motives
17:42 because their heart is not in it.
17:45 Grace does not take away the motive for doing good,
17:47 it only takes away the threat of punishment.
17:51 When you take away the threat of punishment,
17:52 you allow the possibility of doing good
17:55 because you want to, not because you have to.
18:01 This is the new covenant, a new way of relating to God.
18:06 No longer do we work in the vineyard
18:08 because we have to, we work in the vineyard
18:10 because we want to.
18:12 And that can only happen if you know
18:16 what kind of person the vineyard owner is.
18:19 If you need a God that threatens to zap you if you're not good,
18:22 if you need a God that's angry at you all the time,
18:24 if you need to know that you'll be rewarded for hard work
18:28 at being a Christian, then you do not understand grace.
18:33 To you, the Christian life
18:34 is just one obligation after another.
18:37 You do it because you have to, not because you want to.
18:41 Some say, "But I want to be under the control of God,
18:44 under the control of the Holy Spirit."
18:46 But how does God control you?
18:49 By winning your loyalty, not forcing it.
18:53 Jesus said in John 12:32,
18:55 "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
18:59 will draw all men to myself."
19:04 Love is the most powerful force in the universe.
19:09 Love never forces obedience or growth.
19:12 If it did, it wouldn't be true obedience
19:14 from the heart anyway.
19:17 The ironic thing about human beings
19:19 is that when you try to force obedience,
19:22 you often get the exact opposite.
19:27 In the "Signs of the Times"
19:30 Ellen White wrote "A sullen submission
19:33 to the will of the Father
19:35 will develop the character of a rebel.
19:39 By such a one service is looked upon as drudgery.
19:42 It is not rendered cheerfully, and in the love of God.
19:45 It is a mere mechanical performance.
19:47 If he dared, such a one would disobey.
19:51 His rebellion is smothered, ready to break out
19:53 at any time in bitter murmurings and complaints.
19:56 Such service brings no peace or quietude to the soul."
20:02 Have you ever been forced into doing something?
20:05 Even if it was a good thing,
20:07 if you were forced into doing it, somehow it took
20:10 the joy and the pleasure out of doing it.
20:15 Not only that, we sometimes limit our own growth
20:22 and the growth of others when we try to use
20:26 external controls to produce growth.
20:31 Two Christian psychologists Henry Cloud
20:33 and John Townsend recently wrote a book called
20:35 "12 Christian Beliefs That will Drive You Crazy."
20:39 One of these beliefs is that just doing the right thing
20:41 is more important than why you do the right thing.
20:45 In other words, you can change your motives, your heart,
20:48 and everything else just by--just doing it.
20:52 This philosophy is full of accountability and correction.
20:56 Very well meaning Christian people live by this philosophy,
21:00 and they try to guide other people with it.
21:03 Well, John Townsend one of the authors,
21:04 remembers the time when he was in the first grade
21:07 and having trouble reading.
21:09 His family had recently moved and he was in a new school
21:12 and things were a little upset in his life
21:14 and so his mother was trying to compensate
21:17 for some problems that he was having in school.
21:20 And so every day, John would come home from school
21:24 and his mother would have him sit down at the kitchen table,
21:28 take out his reading book and read to her.
21:33 And while he was sitting there at the table reading,
21:35 she would be standing right behind him,
21:38 kind of hovering over him, reading along the words
21:40 at the same time he was, and every time he would make
21:43 the slightest mistake, she would interrupt him
21:45 and correct him and she was just hovering over him
21:49 all the time and trying to make sure
21:52 that he did everything just right and oh,
21:54 she was trying to be so protective and so helpful
21:57 and to correct him and... It made him nervous.
22:02 In fact, it made him so nervous that he could hardly read
22:05 and he dreaded the time that he would go home
22:08 and have to read to his mother.
22:11 Well, John said that finally his mother got some advice
22:15 from her mother, from granny who had raised six kids.
22:20 And so the next day, John came home from school
22:24 and there was the milk and cookies on
22:25 the kitchen table, as usual, and he knew
22:28 that he was gonna have to get out his reading book.
22:32 So he got it out, but this time instead of mother hovering over
22:35 him from behind, she was beyond the table
22:40 with his back toward him while she washed
22:43 some dishes in the sink.
22:45 And she told John to go ahead and start reading.
22:48 Well, John started reading
22:49 and he wasn't a very good reader,
22:51 he was just in the first grade and he was having problems
22:53 and so he haltingly got through some of the sentences
22:57 and he expected his mother to jump in on him any time
23:01 and she didn't, she was just quiet.
23:03 She just stayed over where she was and she washed
23:06 the dishes and after a while, John realized that he needed
23:10 some help and so he asked his mother.
23:13 And every time he asked, his mother would answer
23:16 his question but she would never say anything
23:17 until he asked for something.
23:20 And after a while, after this went on for a few days,
23:23 John started to relax and as time went on,
23:26 he became a voracious reader,
23:28 something he said he still maintains to this day.
23:32 Later in life, he found out that as his mother was standing
23:36 at the sink the tears were rolling down her cheeks
23:40 and she was standing there
23:43 trying so hard to control herself,
23:46 not to jump in and rescue him, not to correct him
23:49 and try to keep her voice calm so that he would stay calm, too.
23:57 You see, you may be able to use fear and punishment
24:02 and correction to get people to do menial tasks and chores.
24:07 It's a reality of life that in order to protect society
24:12 and do business in the world,
24:15 some external controls are necessary.
24:18 But you realize that for the-- most important things in life,
24:24 love, unselfishness, self-sacrifice,
24:29 commitment, for the most important things of life,
24:35 you can't motivate with fear.
24:38 When you do, you get the opposite
24:41 of what you want.
24:44 In my own life, I have noticed that when people exert
24:51 external controls on me, when they use behavior
24:57 modification techniques, it will work for certain things,
25:01 especially if I agree to it ahead of time.
25:05 But when I'm under the threat of punishment,
25:08 in order to be exact or perfect or to do things
25:14 in the correct way, being under punishment creates
25:19 a whole new set of problems that I didn't even have before.
25:24 I think some Christians--well, let's be honest,
25:28 I think all of us have gone through this with God
25:31 at one time or another in our lives.
25:34 We have read the Bible, we've read the Ten Commandments,
25:38 we've gone to church, we've heard all of those sermons
25:43 about how good we ought to be and how we oughtto even
25:46 control our thoughts and how we have to be perfect.
25:52 And let's be honest with ourselves.
25:54 The harder people try to force us to be perfect,
25:58 the less perfect we are.
26:01 In fact, I dare say that, the more you feel threatened,
26:07 the more you feel under the threat of punishment,
26:13 and let's be honest, that's why the doctrine
26:16 of an ever burning hell was created.
26:19 It was to force people to be good.
26:22 The more people feel forced to be good,
26:26 the less good they are.
26:29 Now it may sound somewhat sacrilegious,
26:31 I don't mean it that way but it's true.
26:34 You will never get to heaven
26:35 by having the hell scared out of you.
26:38 What I mean by that is, if you are going to heaven,
26:43 if you are accepting the truth of Jesus Christ,
26:47 not because you are attracted to Christ,
26:50 not because you realize that God is so merciful to you,
26:54 but simply out of fear and terror
26:57 of what will happen in the judgment,
27:01 then I suspect that you are struggling even more
27:06 with trying to be good, with trying to be accepted by God.
27:12 You see, like the waitress
27:15 who received an $11,000 tip in one day,
27:19 you and I don't deserve salvation.
27:23 You see, grace is not fair.
27:25 It's--doesn't even have any thing to do with fairness.
27:29 It has to do with the generosity of God.
27:33 As the landowner said to his workers,
27:35 "Why are you jealous?
27:38 Are you angry at me because I want to be generous?"
27:41 Our heavenly Father wants to be generous.
27:45 He wants people who will be attracted to Him
27:47 and who will accept the free gift of His salvation.
27:52 He can't force it.
27:53 He won't force it.
27:55 He can't scare you into heaven.
27:58 He can only win you.


Revised 2014-12-17