But the man who owned the vineyard said to one of those workers, ‘Friend, I am being fair to you. You agreed to work for one coin. So take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same pay that I gave you. I can do what I want with my own money. Are you jealous because I am good to those people?’ “So those who are last now will someday be first, and those who are first now will someday be last.” (20:1–16 NCV) “Do you begrudge my generosity?” the landowner is saying. The answer, of course, is yes, they do. They begrudge it quite a bit. Even though it has no impact on them whatsoever, it offends them. We hate it when we are trying so hard to earn something, and then someone else gets the same thing without trying as hard. Think about this for a moment, in real, “today” terms. Someone gives you a backbreaking job, and you’re happy for it, but at the end of the day, when you’re getting paid, the guys who came in with five minutes left get the same amount you just got. Seriously? It’s imbalanced, unfair, maddening . . . and it’s also exactly what Jesus just said the kingdom of God is like. Not only is it maddening; it’s maddening to the “good” people! Common sense says you don’t do this. You don’t pay latecomers who came in a few minutes ago the same amount that you paid the hardworking folks you hired first. Jesus tells this story, knowing full well that the conscientious ones listening would find this hardest to take. And, as a matter of fact, as a conscientious one, I find this hard to take. I’m just being honest. This story does not fit my style. I’m all about people getting what they deserve. Oh, it’s offensive, too, when Jesus turns to a guy who’s being executed next to Him, and tells him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). What did the guy do to deserve that? He did nothing. If you call yourself a Christian, and you want things to be fair, and you want God’s rewards given out only to the deserving and the upstanding and the religious, well, honestly, Jesus has got to be a complete embarrassment to you. In fact, to so many upstanding Christians, He is. He has always been offensive, and remains offensive, to those who seek to achieve “righteousness” through what they do. Always. People who’ve grown up in church (like me) are well acquainted with the idea that Jesus is our “cornerstone.” He’s the solid rock of our faith. Got it. Not controversial. It’s well-known. But what’s not so talked about: That stone, Jesus, causes religious people to stumble. And that rock is offensive to “good” people: So what does all this mean? Those who are not Jews were not trying to make themselves right with God, but they were made right with God because of their faith. The people of Israel tried to follow a law to make themselves right with God. But they did not succeed, because they tried to make themselves right by the things they did instead of trusting in God to make them right. They stumbled over the stone that causes people to stumble. (Rom. 9:30–32 NCV) And then Paul says something a couple verses later that angers “good Christians” to this day: Because they did not know the way that God makes people right with him, they tried to make themselves right in their own way. So they did not accept God’s way of making people right. Christ ended the law so that everyone who believes in him may be right with God. (Rom. 10:3–4 NCV) It’s not subtle, what Paul’s writing here. For anyone who believes in Him, Jesus ended the law as a means to righteousness. Yet so many think they can achieve—even have achieved—some kind of “good Christian” status on the basis of the rule-keeping work they’ve done. They suspect they’ll do good things and God will owe them for it, like payment for a job well done. Paul says, in effect, if you think you should get what you earn, you will . . . and you don’t want that.