Jesus told a parable that purposely made no economic sense. A lesson about forgiving grace that can’t be calculated like a day’s wages.
Forgiveness is not something you (or a person who has hurt you) must toil and sweat to earn. Jesus made this point clearly by an employer’s response to the complaint of a full-day regular being paid the same as part-timers: “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).
The gracious employer in Jesus’ story handed out the same paychecks to early risers and latecomers alike. Forgiving grace is not about finishing last or being first. It’s about not counting. Forgiveness is a gift, which is why it contains the word give.
Mercy like God’s is not our kind of math. It’s not always the best economical decision or the most prudent political path. It’s not always ledgered accurately on business plans and spreadsheets. It’s not always exerting authority and discipline in doses that make the most difference.
The mercy of God doesn’t add up, doesn’t count, and is never deserved. That makes each of us forgiven and then able to forgive others.