Trusting in the Goodness of Another


Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

“You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” Matthew 20:4

“Whatever is right I will give you,” is the rub of the matter. Man loves to talk about his rights, but seems unwilling to ask the question, “What is right?” In the parable from which this statement comes, Jesus is exposing the problem of the self-righteous heart. In the parable’s beginning, Jesus tells of a landowner who hires workers in the early hours of a new day. However, before these workers would agree to work, they negotiated their wages. They left nothing unsettled; there was no trust in benevolence or human kindness. They knew what they wanted for their labor, and once the landowner agreed with them, they commenced to work. It doesn’t take much theological training to see that the landowner represents Jesus, while the first hired laborers represent the self-righteous—those unwilling to trust in another. The self-righteous trust only in themselves.

Self-righteousness is a common problem for us all. From our progenitor to you and me, this plague poisons indiscriminately. It manifested itself when Adam defended his dastardly deed and blamed Eve. His words to the Lord were, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” In other words, “It’s not my fault. It’s your fault, God. You gave me this woman who tempted me.” The argument of self-righteousness is as old as the Garden of Eden.

While conversion by the power of regeneration changes the heart of the self-righteous, it does not eliminate the problem. Even Christians must still wrestle with the temptation to trust in their perceived worthiness more than in the goodness of God. Whatever worthiness is perceived is false; it is a mirage. We are never and will never be able to say with any degree of honesty, “Look and see what I have gained from God by my goodness!” The whole lot of us, with no exception, deserve nothing from our Lord’s hand but His wrath, yet He endows us with untold blessings. Each blessing, gift, and kindness is underserved. The Lord will never be in debt to you or me. Despite our knowledge of this, we still battle the urge, if not attitude, of self-righteousness that manifests itself as deserving good and nothing less.

Like the first employees in Jesus’ parables, a believer can slide into the mentality that whatever good in life he enjoys is directly proportionate to his or her good conduct. We’ve earned comfortable stress-free living with the 3-car garage and a car in every stall. We subconsciously feel we are owed good health, behaved children, and great vacations. The motive for decent living is not a love for holiness or the desire to please God but as holding up one’s side of the “negotiated bargain.”

The other men hired later in the day agreed to no arbitrated settlement, but consented to trust the landowner. He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” Later, an hour before sundown, the landowner returned where he had hired his day laborers and found men not working. He asks them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?”

Their reply was, “Because no one hired us.” Such a confession meant they were in some way, inferior workers. No one wanted to take a chance on them. However, to these unworthy workers, Jesus said, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.”

“Whatever is right.” Can you trust the Lord for whatever is right? Are you willing to leave your health and wealth in His hands, accepting whatever He may give? Can you enter into his fields sowing and reaping His harvest, even if your fruit be small? Can you trust Him to be right then? Moreover, can you trust the Lord on that day when you stand before Him on His throne? Will you now trust that “whatever is right you will receive”?

How many of us, God’s servants, fear that hour, fearing we will not get much reward? Death is fearful because we want to do more before we stand before the Lord and death ends the possibility of more time and more fruit. If we were to die today, we fear we will have not much to show for our lives. We should be redeeming the time and not be idle. Moreover, we should desire to be as fruitful as possible. But, I think it is possible that some of us fear the judgment because we fear the Lord will do what is right. And what is right, is little reward.

But the parable suggests that what is right in the sight of God, is much more than we think we deserve unless we are self-righteous. Those whom the landowner hired last were given the same wage as those who had held out for a denarius. What was right was grace—superabundant grace. Whatever we receive in this life or the next, will always be right, and it will be far more than we deserve. What rewards we receive in heaven will be more grace-based than merit-based.

The question is singular, but one you must not dodge—do you trust Him? Do you really believe He will always be loving, even when His hand brings you affliction? Jesus Christ, our Lord, cannot do anything contrary to His benevolent nature. He is much too good to do you wrong, and He is much too wise to make a mistake with you. Do not be self-righteous and want to earn everything you receive from His gracious hand. You will always be disappointed if you work on that basis with God. “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”







From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
James 4:1

As I contemplate human nature and human life, what astonishes me is not that God allows and permits war, but the patience and the long-suffering of God. “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). He suffered the evil, perverse ways of the children of Israel for centuries; and now for nearly two thousand years He has patiently borne with a world that in the main rejects and refuses His loving offer, even in the Person of His only-begotten Son. The question that needs to be asked is not, “Why does God allow war?” but rather, “Why does God not allow the world to destroy itself entirely in its iniquity and its sin?” Why does He in His restraining grace set a limit to evil and to sin, and a bound beyond which they cannot pass?

Oh, the amazing patience of God with this sinful world! How wondrous is His love! He has sent the Son of His love to our world to die for us and to save us; and because men cannot and will not see this, God permits and allows such things as war to chastise and to punish us, to teach us and to convict us of our sins, and above all to call us to repentance and acceptance of His gracious offer. The vital question for us therefore is not to ask, “Why does God allow war?” The question for us is to make sure that we are learning the lesson and repenting before God for the sin in our own hearts and in the entire human race that leads to such results. May God grant us understanding and the true spirit of repentance, for His name’s sake.

– Martyn Lloyd-Jones

You Do Not Have Much Time

(Read this slowly and carefully with real meditation-MT)
Of the many video clips I watched of Billy Graham the week of his death, one in particular has stuck with me. Preaching in Southern Seminary Chapel in 1982, Graham said that at sixty-four years old, his greatest surprise in life was the brevity of life: ‘If someone had told me when I was twenty years old that life was very short and would pass just like that — I wouldn’t have believed it. And if I tell you that, you don’t believe it either. I cannot get young people to understand how brief life is, how quickly it passes.’
Time. Flying past us. Not enough of it. Slipping away from us. Always pressed for it. Wishing we were better at managing it. Feeling guilty we don’t have more for someone special or something noble. We are always running out of time. And Billy Graham is right — oh, how quickly it passes.
Time is a profoundly theological entity. An eternal God teaches creatures some of his greatest lessons in the vehicle of time. It has both a linear and a circular form — you can’t repeat time, even as it gives you many things on a repeating loop. All of it educates us about what God loves and about what it means to be human, giving us at least three great lessons.
‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1). It’s worth pausing right there, at the entrance to this most famous of reflections on time.
Scripture says there is a time for all things, but our world counters that, instead, all things can be done all the time. Most technology, for instance, has harnessed us to the lie that we can throw off the creaturely restraints of time and have access to everything always, without waiting, without stopping, and without needing to rest.
Electricity blurs the boundaries between working while it is day and sleeping while it is night. Our online life has become our timeless master, as several screens ping commands without end which we obey without question. Gyms, fuel stations, libraries, offices, and supermarkets are open 24-7 and we come to believe we can do everything all the time. There is no particular season for anything. We do what we want, when we want.
Wise people respect time’s rhythms. Dawn, morning, afternoon, evening, night. God made six days to work, one day to rest. This structures a week, which repeats over a month, and the months in years.
Many people try to live rhythm-free lives by simply doing whatever they feel like doing in any given moment, without proper attention to whether it is the right time to do that thing; this actually tears at the fabric of what it means to be human. We are now discovering that our constant, season-less attention to digital media is diminishing our personhood.
In years of pastoral ministry, I have not seen many families unravel who unswervingly observe the Lord’s Day together with deliberate joy and routine hospitality. I have witnessed others whose irregular devotion to the corporate body of the church is merely a symptom of the irregular rhythms in other areas of life.
Rhythms are not all there is in an ordinary life under the sun — there is ‘a time to be born, and a time to die’ (Ecclesiastes 3:2), there is ‘a time to weep, and a time to laugh’ (Ecclesiastes 3:4), there is ‘a time to love, and a time to hate’ (Ecclesiastes 3:8). These are seasons, not rhythms, for there is no predictability to their appearance in our timelines and often their presence takes us by surprise.
It takes the eye of faith to see that God ‘has made everything beautiful in its time’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11), because we often live with life’s ugliness and pain as much as its beauty and delight. Further, these are relational seasons: they involve people we love and lose, those we wrong and forgive, those we befriend and those who do us harm. We are profoundly relational beings and most of our lives are taken up with navigating the different seasons of our relationships and the effects they have on us.
Such seasons expose how little control we actually have over our lives. Zack Eswine says, ‘Many of our frustrations rise from our blindness to the change of season or to the pain or joy of them, and we struggle to adjust our expectations’ (Recovering Eden, 130). What do we do with those seasons which bring wrecking-ball damage to our tidy little realms? Where do we turn?
Ecclesiastes helps us to see that one of the seasons we do not control is the time for justice. ‘I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work’ (Ecclesiastes 3:17). There will be a time, one day, for divine time travel: ‘God seeks what has been driven away’ (Ecclesiastes 3:15). All the events of human history that have slipped through the hourglass of time into the past might be lost to us — but they are never lost to God. One day, he will dial back time and fetch the past into his present to bring it to account. Every time will have its day in court.
Foolish people seek all the answers to life in each and every season of life. But some seasons yield only questions, not answers. Some seasons bring a wound that will not heal; it might take a lifetime to learn that we ‘cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The story of my life has broken characters, jarring interruptions, unexpected joys and relationships caught up in unresolved tensions and difficulties. In God’s kindness I have, as yet, unfinished chapters. But my story is not the story. ‘The story reveals that there will be a time for judgment, and believers trust that judgment will finally prevail’ (Craig Bartholomew).
This perspective is the gospel’s now-and-not-yet voice speaking in the unfamiliar accent of Ecclesiastes. Today is the time of suffering and anguish, of work and pleasure, of toil and terror; tomorrow is the time of glory and judgment, of the resurrection of the body and life everlasting in world without end.
Now, this; tomorrow, that. The Lord Jesus fills our time with the unspeakable comfort of promised great reversals. Lose your life today for the sake of Jesus and his gospel; save it tomorrow. Gain the world now; forfeit your soul then. Be ashamed of Jesus in the time of this sinful generation; witness him being ashamed of you in the time of his coming in the glory of the Father and the holy angels (Mark 8:35–38).
Believers on the road to life know that the experiences of time can be reversed. The gospel turns the world on its head. Marred beyond human resemblance, the Servant of the Lord comes, in time, to shut the mouths of kings; buried with the wicked, he comes, in time, to divide the spoils of the strong (Isaiah 52–53). Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are meek, who are hungry, those who lose everything in the here and now, for the day of reversal is coming and the reward will be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5).
– David Gibson