“And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.” (Matthew 20:2)
Someone has said, “Those servants of God who insist on a contract will always feel cheated.” In this case, however, there was indeed a contract. The promised wage was a penny a day, not a penny an hour. And the fact that some of the workers were hired later in the day—even an hour before quitting time—did not change the terms of the agreement. Still, at the end of the day, the daylong workers accused their employer of unfairness, sighting the “Johnny-come-lateleys,” who were getting identical paychecks. But the fact remained; their claim was not legitimate, because the boss had made it perfectly plain to all of them what they were going to receive.
I think the root of the problem is found in verse twelve, where the complainers pointedly reminded the employer that these last hire-ons, who were receiving equal pay, had not “borne the burden and heat of the day,” as they themselves had. They had not suffered the same hardships, yet they were receiving the same recognition. The burden and the blessing were disproportionate, to their way of thinking.
It’s hard to see others around you, who seemingly have not had to fight the battles you have faced, nor sacrificed as you have, receive as much or more recognition and appreciation than you. And I promise you, the tendency to succumb to this insidious form of envy only gets worse as you get older. Remember, though, when we offered ourselves to the Lord to be used as He saw fit—when we hired-on, so to speak—did He not make it clear that the results and the reward would come at His discretion alone? As Jesus says in verse fifteen, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own?”
Speaking for myself, it has been a great honor to serve God these many years, and as I weigh my work for Him against the benefits and joys I have reaped along the way, it seems to me that “a penny a day” is a most generous wage.