“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” – Matt 20:1-16
We often quote “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” in COG circles. (sometimes I tried using it in line at a church potluck when we’re trying to be first in line!) The principle from this passage is often referred to as the “11th hour” scenario, since one worker had been working all day, and the other came in at the 11th hour (of a 12-hour ‘day’) and was compensated the same. I’ve recently experienced this situation in my own life and have learned that it’s not much fun!
I’ve worked at [XYZ Corporation] for over 3 years. After two and one-half years, I was promoted from a long-term supplemental position to a “legit” employee. This new position was an arbitrary raise and came with more vacation. Doing the type of work I do, this was still 30-40% less than people normally make in my position with my experience, but I was happy to at least be making a little more than I used to. Recently XYZ Corp decided that all the employees in the center would become “legit” employees regardless of their skill, experiences, or tenure at XYZ. People off the street starting fresh would be making what I’ve worked up to in 3 and one-half years! And they’d get to negotiate their salary – something I never got to do!
This frustrates me. As I write I am looking for a different position in or out of XYZ. I have learned that I don’t handle “unfairness” well. As a kid I got bent out of shape when teams were stacked “unfairly.” When someone cuts in line, or traffic, it angers me to a disproportionately large degree. My work situation is basically the 11th hour principle in effect and I am “that guy” who needs to work on his attitude.
There are a few things I’ve realized from this experience:
- I need to work on my attitude towards “unfair” situations, since in doing so I am limiting the justice and fairness of God. He is in control, and will work things out His way.
- Comparing your situation to another’s is not a good idea.
- I have been the beneficiary of “unfairness” more often than the victim
- These situations are practice rounds for the real trials that I may have to endure later – with an even greater level of “unfairness” – when Christians will be persecuted for their faith.
- XYZ Corp will not retain too many employees paying 30-40% less than they’re worth.
Maybe you’ve experienced the 11th hour principle in your life. Maybe in your favor, maybe not. But God is just and will sort it all out. I am not a firstborn in my family, but I’ve been told sometimes the responsibility of being a firstborn is unfair. But God has a special role and reward for those who go first, and His plan for the firstfruits will pay off one day. So let us fight the good fight even when it doesn’t seem fair, and press on!