Reversal of Fairness

June 5, 2011

David Sorn

We often think that fairness is what we want, yet if everything was fair, there would be no mercy. Jesus shows us a fantastic parable based around this principle.

Reversal of Fairness

June 5, 2011

David Sorn

We often think that fairness is what we want, yet if everything was fair, there would be no mercy. Jesus shows us a fantastic parable based around this principle.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT | Matthew 20:1-16


Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

We are finishing our Great Reversals series this morning.

But before we get to that, I wanted to talk to you about something we’re doing this summer.

We’ll have more of the DETAILS later in announcements, but starting this Wednesday, we are going to be having “The Link” every Wednesday night at Tim & Carlyn Wilson’s house in Blaine

It’s basically like a picnic/grill-out like environment where you can hang out, socialize, play yard games, and we’ll also be playing a video teaching every week.

I want you to know that everything we do here at Renovation is with definite purpose.

Rather than just constantly start new programs, we only do a few things, so we can do those few things with excellence.

We’re doing the LINK because we value “being in community” like crazy at this church. We’re dead serious about you getting to know other people who are following God.

And the Link provides not only a “Link” between our house group seasons that end in May and start in September, but it provides you an opportunity to just casually start meeting other people at this church…

Which is important. We don’t want to be just a place where you come and watch. Or come and consume Jesus. We want you to get to know a community of believers who can rally around you. Like a real church.

And I think The Link is especially important this summer due to what God has done here in the last couple of months.

We’ve been growing like crazy, which means that SO many of you are new, and didn’t get the chance to get into a house group before they ended, or maybe you were only able to get there for a week or two.

And if that’s you, I really want to challenge you to check out the Link some this summer…

Drop by and meet a few people. Learn some more about God.

And I guarantee you that your experience at this church will change.

We long for the day that you can come here on a Sunday morning and you don’t feel like you have to walk out right away because you don’t know anyone.

And I think The Link provides a great opportunity…during the summer…for us to still accomplish that as a church. So check it out.

OK. Thanks for letting me talk about that a little bit. J

In February of this year, I had the opportunity to travel to Haiti for five days.

It was a pretty eye-opening experience.

If you didn’t know, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

And one of the things that shocked me the most was the sheer amount of people just “standing around.”

On the first day that we were driving, I started putting some things together, and I asked our guide: “What’s the unemployment rate in Haiti?”

He replied back, “80%”

And everywhere you looked, you could see people standing around. Waiting for work. Or begging. Or hoping someone will buy a trinket they’re selling…in a country with no tourists.

But they are waiting. Waiting for work. Waiting for help. Waiting…for salvation.

And it reminded me so much of a story that Jesus tells that I want you to keep that picture in mind today as we talk.


In each of our Great Reversals messages, we are looking at one of the three teachings where Jesus uses his Great Reversal catchphrase.

Which is the following: “The last will be first, and the first will be last”

Today is the last of those teaching moments, and really one of my favorite stories of all time. Let’s check it out

(Explain using Bible App in Oklahoma)

(Matthew 20:1-16) – NIV - (Explain “hours” and “denarius” as you talk)

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Okay, a couple of things to note about this passage

As you probably know, people in the ancient world often went day-to-day, earning only enough food for that particular day.

And many people were dependent on some generous employer or some generous worker picking them to go out and work each day.

It’s really a scene not all that different from the one I described in modern day Haiti.

And here you have this landowner (who represents God in the parable), who wants more people to work for him, so He keeps going out looking for more

And people keep agreeing to go work for him

But the shock comes when the rewards are given out

For the people who worked only an hour are given the same reward as those who worked all day…just as God gives a relationship with Him and heaven as a reward to people…no matter when they come to Him

So it’s really quite the cool story.


And it is indeed a cool story until you realize that some of the people within aren’t happy about it. They don’t think it’s a cool story at all.

But, what’s happened is: The man who worked the full day and got one denarius has taken his eyes off the truth. He’s taken his eyes off the master and turned them to other people.

Because he did get a denarius, right? He got a day’s wages. How much was promised to him? A denarius. A day’s wages.

He got hired. What’s the problem?

I mean seriously. He got what he deserved. He can feed his family now. He got hired in an environment where many were going hungry. He’s been shown mercy.

But when he takes his eyes off of the master and on to what the other person is receiving, He misses it.

And the master asks Him in verse 15 “Are you envious because I’m generous?”

The greek there, as the NT was written in greek, the greek for “Are you envious” literally reads, “Is your eye evil?”

Cuz that’s what it’s about…when our eye starts drifting off of God and onto another people…we miss it. We miss the point.

But this guy, he just sees the other person’s reward. And he starts comparing…contrasting, trying to measure up.

And all of a sudden, you know what?!? IT doesn’t seem RIGHT!

Doesn’t seem very impartial. Doesn’t seem very reasonable!

This happens all the time to people who’ve been Christians since they were a young age.

They start looking at the adult converts, people who came to faith later in life, and saying, “Oh…I don’t have that same fire…that same passion…I wish I had a testimony like that.”

Which we hear all the time.

And when you say that, you take your eyes of your own gift...You take your eyes off of God, and you’re looking at other people.

And that’s a mistake.

“Because you’re going to miss how great the gift is if you are only looking at the gift in someone else’s hands”

Let me should you how this often works out.

I talk so often up here about how proud we are of Renovation Church. God has done SO much here in the last year or so.

And we’re so apt to list those things we are so proud of our people for.

But is it okay if I share something we’ve been disappointed in?

Throughout all of our house groups this year, we had people share testimonies all year long. And it was great to hear so many stories!

But there was one thing that the House Leaders and I were consistently disappointed in: And it was what I alluded to earlier: The vast amount of people who started off saying, “I don’t have much of a testimony. God hasn’t really done anything crazy in my life.”

And maybe that’s my fault. Maybe it’s poor teaching, but WAIT, WHAT?”” Not much of a testimony?? God hasn’t done much in my life??”

You know why we say that? You know why we spew such ridiculous junk out of our mouths?!?

It’s because we’ve confused ourselves into thinking the most important part of our testimony is the part about us. It’s the part about us in the streets before the master called us to work.

But it’s not, the most incredible part of your testimony is the fact that Jesus Christ would be willing to die for someone as messed up as you and I.

And I fear that those of us who think “they don’t have much of testimony are those who actually understand Christianity the least”

Every single person in this room who knows Jesus has an amazing testimony. You were once lost…wandering about…looking for life…and He decided to offer you life, offer you a relationship and forgive everything you’ve ever done…

And I fear the people who think they don’t have much of a testimony mistakenly think they didn’t have much to be forgiven for.

And that happens when you start getting overly focused on what every one else is getting paid, and not on the incredible gift that YOU YOURSELF were ALSO given.

And see, it’s not only that. For those of you that were saved earlier in your life, you got to be with Him the whole time. You weren’t out wandering around…can I feed my family…what’s this life about? I guess I’ll just look to other solutions to find love, to heal my pain, to find life.

You got to find life from the beginning. What a testimony!

Not of your own brilliance, but of God’s sheer generosity in calling you early!

People can grumble about it, but it’s so much of a blessing to work longer for the master of the vineyard. It’s hard, but it’s better than being unemployed. Better than living w/o a purpose.

A testimony is about Him, not about us.

I want to start hearing more people say, “I’m so amazed that Jesus was willing to forgive me when I accepted him into my life at age 7, even though he knew full well, I would live a mediocre life up to now where even though I knew him, I’ve hardly grown in my faith for years, never brought anyone to Christ, and I might even be regressing in my faith despite the fact that I’ve actually known him and the truth for 2 or 3 decades, and yet he was still willing to forgive someone as foolish as me. What unbelievable love and forgiveness!”

Why don’t we hear more testimonies like that? Because all we end up doing is foolishly only focusing on our time before the vineyard rather than the great gift of God!

Jesus tells today’s parable right after the story of the rich young ruler who went away sad because Jesus told him to get rid of his idol of money and follow Him instead.

And at the end of that story, Peter asked Jesus a question:

(Matthew 19:27) – NIV

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

And yes, there is a reward for those who follow Jesus versus those who don’t. We talked about that when we covered this passage a few weeks ago. But the main reward is Jesus himself. It’s a relationship with Him. It’s salvation. But we don’t do it for the reward. We do it because of his sacrifice.

So right after Jesus explains that, yes, Christians will indeed be rewarded for their faithfulness, he launches into TODAY’S story to say, but if you’re just doing this thing for a reward, you’re gonna be disappointed.

A) Cuz you’re all going to heaven just the same.

B) Cuz as soon as you start seeking something other than just Jesus, your eyes have come off what the real prize was in the first place.

It reminds me of Chuck E cheese and their prizes.

(SHOW Picture of Chuck E Cheese Robots)

But this topic reminds of Chuck E Cheese, because when you go there, & you play all of these ridiculous games where you get tickets.

The last time I was there w/ my brother-in-law…and it wasn’t JUST me and my brother-in-law…we were there w/ his family for my nieces birthday…

But, he was so good at the basketball game, that he set off the alarm…and 100 tickets came out

But, you take these tickets, and even if you get like 6,000 tickets, they’re like, “Here little girl, would you like a plastic bendy straw?”

And often it’s just crushing to kids, because they’ve got their mind on the wrong prize.

They think some huge toy. Or they say, “Well, how come my brother gets a toy car? He didn’t play long enough to deserve that?”

“Don’t worry honey, it’ll break by tomorrow.”

And really, when kids want to go back to chucky cheese 6 months later? Why do they want to go back? Does a single one of them remember the prize they got?

No. No way. What they remember is the relationships. They remember the time they had…not the trinket.

And our prize is Jesus Christ. A relationship with Him.

And as soon as we start looking at other prizes…and trying to weigh out who deserves what, as soon as we get overly focused on the prize, we miss it.


Cuz when we focus on other people, something ELSE often happens. In fact, this might of even happened to you as you read the story today.

We read the fact that they were all given the same wages for working different hours, and our American minds go berserk.

Our fairness radar goes off. NOT FAIR! NOT FAIR!!

“And here’s where our selfishness blurs our interpretation of who God really is. And our desire for fairness keeps us from seeing something absolutely beautiful about God.”

Let me explain what I mean.

If you’re a parent, or even if you’re not, imagine with me that you are…do we only parent kids in this world by fairness?

No way. Parents tell kids ALL the time: “Life’s not fair!”

But what if you did only parent based on fairness????

“Each child gets ¾ cup of cereal this morning, no more no less.

“Ohh…I’m sorry Timmy, you took an 1/8 of an ounce more juice than your sister, you’re going to have to poor some back”

Well, wait a second timmy, you’re right…you do need 12.5% more calories than her, so why don’t you keep that.

“Each of you got the exact same present. For the exact same dollar amount. Your present was $22.37, so is your sister’s.”

“Oh, you got taken out to a special dinner with just dad? Well, then we will have to take out your other 3 siblings to a one-on-one dinner with just dad?”

You know what happens when you only live by fairness? There’s no such thing as generosity. And so much of our LOVE is shown through, not fairness, but generosity. By extra kindness. By UNDESERVED kindness.

You know what else would happen if we lived in a world that was only ruled by fairness? There’d by no such thing as mercy.

Listen, a world where EVERYTHING is fair is not what we want. We don’t want it.

Lecrae, a Christian rapper, who’s an even more brilliant writer, says this, “God has never been obligated to give us life, If we fought for our rights, we’d be in hell tonight.”

Think about this: IF God was only fair, we’d all be in hell.

It’s really what we deserve for our lives of rebellion and ignoring Him.

Is fairness really what we want?

No way…we want his mercy. His MERCY to forgive people like us…


And when we properly understand what we’ve been given, that Jesus died on the cross for messed up people like us…to take our place…our punishment…and forgive us..

When we properly understand what we’ve been given AND understand what the alternative would have been, to not be chosen to work in the vineyard, the only response we should have is gratefulness.


What if we wouldn’t have been chosen?

What if we would have missed our chance?

I read a story of guy who came back from Vietnam after serving for a year, and someone asked him, where you would be right now if you had been killed in Vietnam?

And he wrote that he realized for the first time, that he had only been a breath away from an eternity in hell. He was overwhelmingly struck with the realization that his life was a gift.

His life was not his own, but a gift.

You know, one of the best things I think parents can do is expose their children to seeing more of the world.

Even more of our own state. Drive your kids through a bad neighborhood…during the daytime.

Have them volunteer with you at a homeless shelter.

Expose them to poverty.

Children need perspective.

See, otherwise, we just raise children who get so unbelievably upset that their big brother got a Nintendo Wii and all they got was a STUPID NINENDO DS!!

And we as parents can say, “Just be glad you got something at all, all right??”

They should just understand that, right?? Right???

Well, it’s the same with us.

Sometimes when it comes to the Kingdom of God, we act like kids.

Shouldn’t we be thankful that he died for us?? Isn’t that enough?

Isn’t that fact right there the most beautiful testimony and beautiful gift in the whole wide world?

Our testimonies should all start like this: Not focused on how long we’ve lived for him or how long we’ve strayed, or some details of our life.

Because it’s not about us. It’s about HIM! So we should say, “Listen up everyone..I’ve got something utterly mind-blowing to tell you, “Jesus chose to die for me.” Wow. Wow.


One of my favorite worship songs is the song, “You Alone.”

On the bridge, we just sing, “I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive” over and over again.

And it gives me goose bumps every time. Because I’m alive now. I’m going to live…with Him…forever.

And I don’t deserve to.

Many of you know this about me but I spent 18 years of my life not caring about God. I was dead. Not alive.

But when I was 18 years old, God started to knock a lot louder and louder in my life, and I started to notice him.

He started to move in my heart, (it was a process) but he started to move…to ask me to work for him…to be with him

And you know what, he had been there before. He had come asking before…looking for workers…looking to hand out grace

But I had just been wandering around the marketplace doing my own thing…sometimes, I think, I even saw him, but I ignored him, kept doing my own thing, thinking, I’ll find my own way. I’ll provide for myself

And the thing that’s so powerful about this parable, this image, is that, it’s the landowner who’s out in the heat of the sun looking time after time for workers

Wealthy landowners don’t do that…their servants do that

But Jesus wants to show us this image of God searching for you. He’s looking for you. He’s been trying to find you, and get your attention!

And when I finally noticed him, and decided to follow Him…I was not only blessed to be in a relationship w/ him, but I was rewarded by his underserved grace

And that’s the crazy part of great reversals. Not just as we talked about the first two weeks, that Jesus will reverse the overly religious to the last

But that Jesus can take even those who’ve missed the point… Those who’ve ignored Him. Those who’ve squandered their lives on everything but Him…

That He can take their lives and reverse it.

And you need to know that NO MATTER what you’ve done, and for HOW LONG you’ve done it, or for how long you’ve put God off…he can reverse that track record.

He can rewind the tape. He can erase it all. It won’t count against you.

Even if it’s the 11th hour…and for some of us, it might be, we don’t know that. You can be completely forgiven by Him.

That’s why he died on the cross.

He died on the cross to forgive our sins, and the Bible says that whoever believes in that, that he took your place, will be COMPLETELY forgiven.

Completely forgiven.

And if that’s you…if you’ve been wandering…know this: Jesus is the master of the Great Reversal.

He can forgive. You just need to ask Him.

When the master comes looking for you. Get up and follow.

Let’s pray.


Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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