SARAH LEWIS | April 12, 2022
On a good day, I can say that I am filled with excitement and gratitude for the calling God has put on my life. I’m thankful for my story as it has unfolded, both in the ways God has provided and in the ways He has withheld. I see His work in and through me and His hand on everywhere He has taken me. I see the green grass of my life and it feels like the product of an abundantly loving God… on a good day.
But on a not-so-good day (which is more often than I’d like to admit) I’m pretty aware of everyone else’s stories. I’m good at recognizing the things God has provided them, and I can’t help but notice they have things I don’t. Sometimes because their calling is different, and sometimes because they’ve surpassed a calling in order to build a life of their own making.
Either way, my joy is killed by my proclivity to compare and I start to feel gypped. Today is a not-so-good day. As I search for a 700 square foot apartment in Queens for my family of four to squeeze into and contemplate paying rent that makes me want to cry, I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m looking over at my friend’s lives and seeing a whole lot of green grass. And you know what city doesn’t even have any grass? New York. But in Matthew chapter 20 Jesus speaks about some people who seem to be having a day like mine:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘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 starts off with someone who joyfully went out to do the work he was hired to do for the wage he was told. He had a job and knew what he was called to and he worked like someone who trusted his master to be good and fair and have his best interests in mind… until he noticed what other people were up to. Then his job seemed laborious, his task seemed heavy, and his wage seemed unfair. In other words, his joy was killed by his proclivity to compare and he started to feel gypped.
And you know what the master said? “Get over yourself.” He was a little nicer than that, but you get the point. The problem wasn’t that the master was unfair. The problem was that the worker was discontent. What once seemed good and agreeable to him became not enough and he grumbled because his life didn’t look like someone else’s. Because his apartment was tiny and their house was huge (or something like that).
Thomas Hale said that the “the biggest hinderance to the missionary task is self. Self that refuses to die. Self that refuses to sacrifice. Self that refuses to give. Self that refuses to go.” If I am going to live into the task God has placed on my life it will require that my self dies regularly. That these not-so-good days become an opportunity to fix my eyes on a very good God. That I take thoughts captive and saturate my mind in His word and dwell on truth until I am thankful for both what he has given and what He has withheld. And in the freedom that comes from that thankfulness, I can choose to get back to work.