Elim is a very blessed community with many gifted, wise, and insightful people. Hannah (and her husband Jason) Comerford is one of those people. I have invited her to share her humorous and insightful experience from a few weeks ago, I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Well, this is my life now. Cold forever. That’s what I get for complaining about the heat last summer.
My husband Jason and I had arrived at Puyallup’s new Chick-fil-A at 5:45 a.m. Everyone who stayed until 6:00 AM the next day would get a t-shirt and, most importantly, a gift card pre-loaded with 52 chicken sandwich meals.
When we first arrived, we happily — though a bit sleepily — put up our borrowed tent, set up a couple cots, and brought in our supplies: snacks we would never eat, games that we would never have enough dry room to play, sleeping bags that wouldn’t be warm enough, flashlights we wouldn’t need because of the streetlights’ glare. Once we finished setting up, we weren’t allowed off the premises. No trips to the car, no quick ride home to get more socks, only short bathroom breaks in the building.
The rain never let up for more than a half hour or so. It eventually soaked through my wool hat, my ski jacket, my double layer of pants, and my gloves. After several hours of damp chill, the only thing keeping me from complaining or giving up was the reminder that this was only one night, and some people have to endure much worse than this every night of their lives.
It wasn’t all terrible, though. We had activities to take our minds off the cold: Simon Says, lip-sync battles, Name that Tune, etc., all with fun prizes. It kept my spirits up for several hours. We made friends with the other crazy people camping out with us. Four times during the day Chick-fil-A employees lined up for roll call, then sent us past the drive-through window to pick up hot food. Once we even went inside to assemble food packs for local food banks — a fun activity with the benefit of giving us coveted shelter!
A couple hours into our stay, I made small talk with one of the employees.
“So, how many spots are left?” I asked.
“There are still spots left,” she said cryptically.
“So, if it doesn’t fill up until tomorrow … can someone just come in at 5:00 a.m. and claim the prize?”
“Yes, they can do that.”
A couple nearby participants said some choice words. After we had endured the rain and the cold for hours and hours, they could just waltz in and claim the same prize?
It didn’t seem fair.
In Matthew 20, Jesus tells a story about a man who hires laborers to work in his vineyard all day. After a couple hours, the man finds some other people hanging out around the marketplace. He tells them to come over to his place, promising to pay them what he thinks is fair. Three more times he does this. Then, when the work day is over, the man pays his workers.
This is where the story gets frustrating. The workers who started in the morning receive the same pay as those who came in at the end of the day.
I’ve always wanted to chime in with the all-day workers: “These people only worked one hour, yet you’ve made us equal after we’ve worked all day in the hot weather.”
But the master says, “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?” (Matthew 20:13-15).
It isn’t fair, is it?
When Jason and I arrived at Chick-fil-A, we filled out the same contract as everyone else. We agreed to the same terms: once we brought our belongings to the property, we would stay until 6:00 a.m.
Chick-fil-A didn’t need to give us the contract. They had every right to say, “We appreciate your zeal, but we decided we didn’t want to lose money on this grand opening.” We didn’t inherently deserve free food. Moreover, I would venture to say that none of us needed free food. We didn’t really work for that gift card (unless you count shivering as work). And, like I said earlier, what we went through wasn’t any worse than what thousands do every night — except we could go home the next day.
Chick-fil-A had the right to do whatever they wanted with their gift cards, and they chose to give the same prize to us as they did to the hundredth guest who arrived at 10:45 p.m.
The master of Jesus’s story had the right to give his workers whatever he wanted. It was his money.
God has the right to give His people whatever reward He deems appropriate. He has the right to offer forgiveness and grace to the ninety-year-old who accepted Christ at three years old as well as to the death-row inmate hours before his execution. It is not our inherent right to receive anything from God, because we did nothing to deserve it. Christ was the one who paid for it. He is the one who decides what’s fair. (Ephesian 2:8-9)
While we did “suffer” longer than the hundredth guest, we were able to benefit from the fun activities provided, the prizes we won, and the free hot meals Chick-fil-A provided. The hundredth guest didn’t.
Likewise, the workers in the parable enjoyed the benefits of working. The late workers said they didn’t join earlier because no one had asked them to — they wanted to work, just like most of us want the opportunity to do something with our days.
The lifelong Christian has the blessing of spending a lifetime receiving mercy from the Lord. The last-minute convert has not lived with the mercy, grace, and goodness that comes with a personal relationship with God.
If you’re still waiting to accept God’s offer, don’t wait any longer. Enjoy a relationship with God now.
If you’ve been working for God your whole life, celebrate with Him when he receives new workers. Thank Him for being the One to decide what is fair.