I’m ashamed to admit it, but a couple of weeks ago, I got my first speeding ticket in almost 18 years. There really was no excuse for my behaviour. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was just looking forward to getting home. I was only about 8 km from home, priming myself to watch some championship women’s curling on television. The next thing I knew, there was a police officer standing in my lane, pointing to me to pull over. I looked at the speedometer. Oops.
Meanwhile, the person driving the vehicle behind me was laying on her horn, and swerving around me, while I slowed down (in a hurry!) and prepared to pull over. As she swerved around me, the police officer motioned to her to pull over, too – which she began to realize perhaps five metres before nearly hitting the officer.
The officer came to my car, took my information, and told me how fast I was going, according to his well-concealed radar gun: 80 km/h in a 50 km/h zone. Ouch. I suspected I was speeding, but didn’t think I was going quite that fast. I apologized to the police officer, and expressed gratitude that the driver behind me had not sent him to an early grave. He said, “Yeah, I need to have a conversation with her.”
The police officer took my licence and registration with him, and approached the other vehicle. The driver decided to argue with the police officer. This is not a good idea, Ma’am, I’m thinking to myself. After she had had her say, the policeman retired to his warm car where he proceeded to do what officers do when they get back to the car. When he came back, he came to me first, gave me my information, and explained that he had to give me a ticket – almost apologetically.
The good news for me was that he had reduced the fine, and it wouldn’t cost me any demerit points. I thanked the officer for his leniency, and s-l-o-w-l-y made my way back onto the roadway. As I drove past the officer, now having another conversation with the other driver, I wondered to myself whether he would be as lenient with her as he had been with me. I doubted it, simply because, while I had been compliant, the other driver had nearly killed the cop, and then argued with him about it!
But then, I thought to myself, I couldn’t know for sure that he wouldn’t be gracious to her. I was immediately reminded (no, really, I was!) of Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard.
Jesus told a story of a vineyard owner who went into town to gather some workers for his fields – first at 6 in the morning, then at 9, noon, 3 and again at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Quitting time was 6, and when all the workers lined up to get their pay, they saw that the workers who had been brought in just an hour ago were paid the standard day’s wage. They were thinking, Man! If these guys are getting a whole day’s wage, we must be going to get a lot more!
But they were wrong.
In the end, the owner gave each worker the very same amount of money. They complained to the owner that this was unfair, but the owner reminded them that they had agreed to work for the wage they were paid. “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?” (Matthew 20.14-15, NIV). The vineyard owner extended to all the same grace out of his own generosity.
In my heart, I was torn. Part of me was hoping that the other driver would not receive the same grace I had. Another part of me was hoping she would.
Isn’t it great that God doesn’t think like we do? Jesus introduced that parable by saying that this is what the kingdom of heaven was like. God’s kingdom is characterized by God’s grace. This means that people who make authentic death-bed professions of faith will receive all the riches of heaven that the lifelong believer will receive. It means that I had no reason to hope that the other driver received a ticket for anything more than I did. If anything, by thinking with a kingdom of God mind-set, I should have hoped that she was let off with a warning.
If you’re a seasoned believer, pray for those who have yet to come to faith, that they will experience the true riches of God’s grace.