It’s Not Fair!

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Joseph Anderson Donetti frowned. He looked over the top of his Primary Treasure at G.M. “I don’t like this story,” he said firmly. “It isn’t fair.”

G.M. carefully washed out her paintbrush in the jar of water that sat on the work table close to her elbow. She turned around to look at Joseph. “What?” she asked.

“I don’t like this Bible story,” Joseph repeated. “I thought God was supposed to be fair.”

“What are you talking about?” G.M. asked. She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes.

“My Sabbath School lesson,” Joseph answered. “I don’t like it.”

“What story is it?” G.M. asked patiently.

“That story about the guy who owned a vineyard,” Joseph explained. “About how he paid all the workers the same amount of money no matter how long they worked. It’s not fair.”

G.M. stood up and stretched. She walked over and sat down in the antique wooden rocking chair. “I didn’t understand that story either when I was growing up,” she said. “But now I do, and I like it.”

Joseph sat up a little straighter in his chair. “But it’s not fair!” he insisted. “The owner should have paid each worker for the amount of work he did!”

G.M. held up her hand. She looked like a traffic cop. “Stop,” she said. “The Bible stories are pictures. When you know what the different parts of the story mean, then you have a better picture of God and what He’s really like. Maybe you’re just not artistic enough,” she teased.

“I am too artistic!” Joseph protested.

G.M. grinned. “OK. OK,” she said. “You’re right. You are very artistic. So let’s talk about this particular Bible picture.”

“The owner of the vineyard is God,” Joseph began.

“Right,” G.M. agreed. “And the workers are the people who accepted God’s invitation to be a part of His kingdom. Once a person is a part of God’s kingdom, He understands that God is Lord. And he wants to do God’s will and serve Him.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Joseph said slowly. “But won’t God give special rewards to people who serve Him the most? I mean, suppose somebody was a missionary in Africa for 50 years. Wouldn’t God give him a big reward compared to somebody who really didn’t do much, like somebody who didn’t even want to be a Sabbath School teacher or anything?”

G.M. laughed. “God will reward us according to our works,” she said, “but that’s something that will happen in heaven. And that’s not the point of this particular Bible story. The payment that the owner gives each worker represents eternal life. God gives every Christian eternal life—no matter how long he or she has been a Christian.”

Joseph thought for a minute. “I guess that makes sense,” he said. “Like that thief on the cross beside Jesus didn’t live very long after he became a Christian.”

“And think about this,” G.M. went on. “We tend to think that the workers who didn’t do much all day were the lucky ones. We think they just goofed off most of the day and still got paid. But the workers who worked all day in the vineyard were actually the blessed ones. They worked happily all day. They knew all day that they would receive their promised reward. They weren’t stressed out worrying about what would happen to them and their families like the other people who didn’t get hired until later on.

“People who don’t understand that God wants to give everybody the free gift of eternal life get all stressed out about their future,” G.M. finished.

A slow smile spread across Joseph’s face. “I get it!” he said. “The story is a good picture.”

Joseph was quiet for a moment, then he stood up. “Popcorn!” he said.

“What?” G.M. asked.

“I’ll make a picture,” Joseph said. He sucked in his belly as far as he could. He sucked in his cheeks, too, and closed his eyes halfway.

G.M. laughed. “I get it!” she said. “You’re starving.”

Joseph grinned at her. “Yes!” he said.

“OK,” G.M. gave in. “Microwave popcorn or real popcorn?”

“Real popcorn, please,” Joseph answered. “The kind you pop in a real kettle and put real butter on.”

“I should have remembered that learning makes you hungry,” G.M. declared as she headed for the kitchen.

Joseph followed.

There was a thud on the back porch.

Joseph rushed around G.M. to open the back door. “Come in!” he invited Mac, holding the door wide. “We’re having popcorn. Real homemade popcorn. And you can have some even though you have done nothing to earn it except to come into our kingdom.”

Mac stared at Joseph. “What in the world are you talking about?” she asked.

“Let me explain,” Joseph began in his best teacher voice.

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