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This is part 3 in the Perplexing Parables series. Find this and other pursueGOD.org sermons on YouTube here.

Many situations arise in life where God seems unfair. Often, this feeling is driven by how we think God should treat us. These expectations, when unfulfilled, can create anger and resentment toward God. Jesus told a parable in Matthew 20:1-16 to show us that, in fact, God is unbelievably generous.

We will not understand God’s generosity as long as we carry false expectations of him. The parable points out three errors in our view of God that, if not corrected, will surely lead to dissatisfaction.

[Related: God’s Generosity to You]

Don’t Hold God to Promises He Never Made

We create expectations of God based on what we think he should do, rather than on what he said. The workers hired early in the day thought the landowner should act a certain way (v10). When he didn’t, they accused him of being unfair (v13). Yet they got everything the owner promised them (v14). Likewise, God always keeps his promises. But when he doesn’t do what we think he ought to, we blame and criticize him instead of being grateful for all that he has done.

[On YouTube: 5 Things God Never Promised You]

[Related: Does God Always Keep His Promises?]

Don’t Assume God Owes You for All Your Hard Work

God doesn’t owe us anything except his just judgment for our sin. Instead, he graciously invites us into relationship with him (what the Bible calls “covenant”), in which he promises to bless us. Everything God gives us is a result of his generosity. But we often assume that what we get from God is a result of our hard work or worthiness. This “transactional” approach assumes that God is obligated to us because of what we do for him. Like the workers hired early in the day (v11), when God doesn’t give us what we think he owes us, we turn against him.

[Related: Work Hard at What You Do]

Don’t Complain About How God Blesses Others

In his generosity, God loves to bless people beyond what they deserve (v9). Yet we think people should get only what they deserve. So like the workers hired early in the day (v15), we selfishly get jealous and complain when we see how others are blessed – especially compared to ourselves.

How do you respond when God doesn’t do what you expect? How do you react when God blesses others (seemingly) more than he has blessed you? In reality, God is never unfair to us. We are actually unfair to God when we judge him by our expectations. God has generously given each of us far more than we deserve. Rain or shine, we have every reason to celebrate his goodness in our and others’ lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. Have you ever felt that God is unfair, or have you known someone else obsessed with the idea of God’s fairness (or lack thereof)? What happened?
  3. What are some false expectations of God you once held that have changed?
  4. Read Numbers 23:19. What does this teach us about God’s promises? And if something we think is promised goes differently than we expect, what should be the takeaway?
  5. Read Matthew 20:11-14. Does God give us what we deserve? Explain why or why not.
  6. Read Matthew 20:15-16. The Jews of Jesus’s day believed God’s promises were only for them. What is Jesus teaching here through this parable?
  7. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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