Is the Gospel Unfair?
Labor Day is celebrated across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, and other public gatherings.
For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.
But this annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated in the late 1800s when the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories, and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages.
People of all ages often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities, and breaks. Labor unions began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.
Many of these events turned violent, and others birthed longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.
The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on, but it wasn’t a legal holiday until President Grover Cleveland signed it into law 12 years later.
There’s a parable in the Bible in which workers in a vineyard thought the way they were paid was unfair, but Jesus was illustrating how the kingdom of God works.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.” —Matthew 20:1-2
The landowner went back out the third hour of the day and brought back more workers, telling them he would pay them what was right. He repeated this the sixth and ninth hours of the day. Just before the workday was over he did this again.
When it came time to be paid, the workers who toiled all day thought surely they would receive more than the ones who came at the end of the day. But the landowner paid all the workers the same amount!
This might seem unfair, but it illustrates that salvation is not earned no matter how long you work at it. It’s a gift.
Those who are saved at the last minute and have virtually no good works to their credit will be just as cleansed and enjoy the same benefits of salvation as those who have walked with the Lord in obedience for years.
That’s because none of us are saved by our works! We’re saved by grace through faith, and we all benefit from Jesus’ performance and not our own.
As we enjoy our Labor Day holiday, we can all celebrate and thank God for His unconditional love and the “unfairness” of the gospel!
Happy Labor Day!