One of the questions I get asked in Confirmation sometimes is about how people are saved. I wax theological with the Middle School students, quote some Bible passages, and then sum up with something along the lines of, “Really, all you have to do is believe in Jesus.”
Inevitably, as the conversation goes on, we eventually get to the question about the man on death row. He has committed lots of horrible sins. “Are you telling me that if this person truly accepts Jesus in his final moments, he’ll be saved?” “Yes, that’s what I’m saying,” I reply.
This doesn’t always sit well with students. Maybe it doesn’t sit well with you. It’s in our nature to constantly compare ourselves to others and look for what’s “fair” or “right”. It doesn’t seem “fair” that I’ve walked with Jesus my whole life but now this murderer is swooping in at the eleventh hour and joining our team? That doesn’t seem right.
Jesus told a parable about this very thing. He talks about a master who was going to pay people who only worked one hour the same amount as those who worked all day! Here’s how those “all day” workers responded:
Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat. Matthew 20:8-12
Our human, sinful nature wants to find the unfairness in this story. But it’s really a story about the generous master. Instead of focusing on the unfairness of the situation, we can celebrate in the grace given to those who were hired last. In the same way, when others who haven’t been “trying to follow Jesus” as long as us come to know Jesus, we can rejoice in God’s grace instead of the worldly unfairness of it all.