True Love Is Given, Not Earned

The parable of the 11th hour workers is well-known (Matthew 20:11-14). The master of the house hires laborers in the morning to work his vineyard at an agreed-upon wage. At different points throughout the day, he hires more workers, including some that are hired at “the eleventh hour,” that is, an hour before the end of the workday. At the end of the day, he paid the workers who had worked the least first, and decided to pay them the wage that he had promised the laborers who worked all day. Understandably, the all-day laborers were excited to see this, thinking that they would receive some exponentially larger figure, since they had worked exponentially longer hours.

They were, of course, distressed to receive the same pay that they had agreed upon at the beginning of the day, the same wage as the 11th hour workers. When we read this story, it’s easy enough to understand why they feel cheated. Wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

But we forget that in the economy of the gospel, we are the 11th hour workers. Some people are pretty good at keeping it together, and so it’s easy to convince ourselves that we deserve some greater reward. But the truth is we’re far worse off than we think. Are you ever not “all you can be?” Do you have regrets from a damaged relationship? Do you have a dark secret that you can’t share with anyone? Jesus says, “You. You there that no one else thinks deserves much of anything. I’m here for you. Not because you worked hard, but because I am generous. I give you the same free gift, bought and paid for with my own life, that I give to those who you think are better than you.”

Jesus’ point is that what we need most–true love–is given, not earned. It is a free gift from God, earned for us by the work of His Son. It’s a love for which you never have to work.

(Excerpted from my forthcoming devotional It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News)

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