“Justice is getting the bad we deserve.
Mercy is NOT getting the bad we deserve.
Grace is getting the good we don’t deserve.”
~Dr. Helen Fagan
I’ve been learning about grace. Grace is offered to everybody. You may know about it your entire life, or perhaps you don’t. Maybe you live a heavy life of imperfection—knowing you don’t measure up. Then, one day, you hear about grace and you are set free!
Matthew 20 begins with a parable about the kingdom of God. I’d always thought it was speaking about salvation, but am glad to know it is talking about GRACE!
In this parable, a vineyard owner hires workers for a denarius (a day’s wages). As the day wears on, he hires more workers at three or four different times. “In the eleventh hour, he went out and found still others standing around…’You also go and work in my vineyard.’ ”
When it comes to the end of the day, he pays all the workers the same wage, regardless of when they began to work in the day. The all-day workers are upset that the eleventh-hour workers also received a denarius, and that there was no extra pay for themselves.
“He answered one of them, Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man 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? So the last will be first and the first will be last.”
This doesn’t seem fair, but the truth is? Salvation is not fair. We sinned. Jesus never sinned. He died to pay for our sins. That’s the epitome of “not fair”. And? He did it because He loves us. He knew we could never be sinless, so He spent His own life-blood to pay our ransom.
An excellent example of eleventh-hour grace is given in Luke, chapter 23. Jesus is on the cross, between two criminals. One is taunting and mocking him, but the other defends Jesus. “But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:40-43)
Grace is given to all people, regardless of our stories. Maybe you’ve been a vineyard worker your entire life. You’re serving God with passion and purpose. Maybe you came to him in your childhood. Or maybe in your teens, twenties, fifties, eighties—the amount of grace offered is the same. We can’t earn grace. Our good deeds don’t outweigh our bad ones. Jesus is the one who gives us all that righteousness that we long for.
When you accept grace, it frees you to extend grace to others. We forgive others because all our sins are forgiven. I encourage you to start living in grace. Strive to do your best, but allow a do-over, a fresh start, for the days that are less than your best.
And remember, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
You will find that the more you live in forgiveness, the more peace you find within. You look behind the offense to the hurt that caused a lashing-out. You begin to look on others with love and compassion, and you transform into a vessel full of grace. It begins with one small act of forgiveness and grace at a time, but it becomes a habit and then a lifestyle.
We’re walking this road together, you and I. And don’t forget that grace is extended to you, so forgive yourself as well.
I’ll leave you with a song about Grace. It’s called “Broken Vessels” by Hillsong. It speaks so beautifully about how Jesus sees us.