Grumbling Equality?

Text: Matthew 20:1-16

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

We have heard much about the term ‘equality’ in the news over the last several decades. And as you may or may not know, the goal of equality is to make sure that everyone has the same financial, social, gender, and intellectual position in society.   Equality understands that many people have various circumstances, resources, and opportunities that need to be reallocated to create sameness.  

Now, please keep in mind that we Christians must always seek to apply the best construction with any person, place, thing, or idea. It is always healthy to find points of agreement with those around us. In other words, with the push for equality, we can certainly agree that there are many people, systems, and laws that are not fair or abusive in our world. For example, we should stand in solidarity with those striving for equality against the wretched laws and practices in the Middle East aimed at women. We should stand in solidarity against religious persecution in places like Nigeria and Somalia. We should stand in solidarity against the human rights violations in China and so forth.  

Again, there is much work that needs to be done worldwide on the issue of equality and inequality. And we, the church, should never hesitate to point out tyrannical people, wretched laws, and abusive cultures.  

Now, as we do this, we also must guard ourselves against being too naïve. That is to say, while it is good to address abuses in the world, we must guard ourselves against believing the myth that once everyone is equal that everything will be happy, slappy, and perfect. You see, having perfect equality will not create a perfect world with happy and content people. A perfect utopia is not at the end of the rainbow of equality. But instead, more often than not, once equality has been achieved, humanity shifts from suffering to grumbling.  

Take our Old Testament reading from the Book of Exodus, for example. You would think that being delivered from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh would’ve created gratitude in the Hebrews. You would think that any of the challenges before them would’ve been small potatoes compared to the decades of suffering and slavery under the Egyptians. But no, as we hear only five chapters after they are freed from slavery, grumbling sets in. Not just a little grumbling but grumbling to the point of wanting to kill Moses.   And let us not forget our reading from the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us a parable where everyone gets paid fairly and gets paid the same; however, right there with complete equality, grumbling broke forth.  

Now, it is important to keep in mind that there is a big difference between suffering and grumbling. When we suffer, we typically cry out for mercy. Suffering has a way of developing endurance in us, and endurance builds character, which goes the way of hope. In other words, when we Christians suffer, we typically acknowledge our pain but do so while clinging to the hope of Christ. But grumbling?   Grumbling is suffering without hope. Grumbling is complaining that leads to despair. Grumbling is typically rooted in sad, resentful, and even malicious dissatisfaction.   Grumbling has its roots in envy and jealousy, and coveting. Grumbling lacks gratitude, as well as faith, hope, and love. Grumbling is the voice of the envious and complaining old Adam in all of us.

Dear friends, consider for a moment how easy it is for you and me to grumble when things are going well in our lives. The Hebrews were just delivered from the suffering of slavery – and then they grumbled. The first workers in the vineyard were all paid fairly for their work, and then they grumbled. And you and me – we live in one of the most prosperous times in human history, we have more technology and perks than any other people in the history of the world, and to boot, we have the free forgiveness of Jesus… and we still find time to grumble.  

That is why we are naïve if we believe that everyone will be content and happy once all suffering and inequality are removed. In other words, if all suffering is removed from this world and we are all made financially, socially, and intellectually equal – we will not create a happy and blissful utopic society. We will set the stage for a grumbling larger and bigger than we have ever known.  

You see, while we must uphold that there are indeed problems of inequality in this world that need to be fixed, we must also be brave to admit that while equality is needed, it is not the end-all and be-all solution to life. Again, where you find perfect equality, perfect bliss, and fairness, you will most certainly find a spirit of grumbling that will make everything toxic.  

As mentioned before, it is this way because all of us have the old Adam. And to be a bit more specific, the old Adam sees things with an evil eye. And so, for us Christians, we could say that one of our eyes sees Christ and His gifts, but our other eye is evil. Our evil eye sees things with discontent, always looking at what we did not get. Our evil eye sees the glass as half-empty; it always compares us to other people and looks at life without faith. And once the evil eye zeros in on something unfair or bothersome, it triggers our mouths to spew forth grumbling and complaints.  

Again, please keep in mind that grumbling is different from suffering.   Hear this loud and clear! Suffering cries for mercy. Suffering can be voiced in prayer to God. Suffering happens when we cry out in a posture of humility, need, and faith. Grumbling, though? Grumbling does not cry out for mercy but spews poison. Grumbling is not voiced in prayer to God but in rants to one’s neighbor. Grumbling happens when we snarl in a posture of pride, frustration, and unbelief.   And so, grumbling will never see God’s goodness, His Mercy, and His love because it is too busy working to bring forth the fruit of bitterness. Ultimately grumbling rejects the Gospel, it spits on Christ and His gifts, and it denies our Baptismal reality.  

Dear Lord, please forgive us! Please forgive my flock and especially me. Forgive us for our grumbling.  

Baptized Saints, I thank God that we are not judged on the amount of grumbling that we do. If we were, you and I should be looking for a bunch of rocks to crawl underneath. But instead, our Lord Jesus Christ hears our grumbles, He hears our confession, and He groans the words, 

“It is finished.”


“I forgive you for your grumbling.”  

And that, my friends, are the most beautiful words that we can hear. Our grumbling mouths, evil eye, and discontent heart are met with Christ’s bold and gracious decision to forgive you and me for all of our sins. Our Lord chooses not to give us what our grumbling mouth and evil eye deserve. Because of His goodness, He chooses to pour out His gracious forgiveness upon you, and you, and you, and you, and you – you are forgiven.  

And perhaps the most incredible news, the Lord’s graciousness is not conditioned on you and me. How could it be? We don’t deserve it. But instead, it is in the very nature and character of the Kingdom of God to forgive grumbling sinners and consider it well-worthwhile.  

And so dear friends, in a peculiar turn of events, I guess we are indeed all equal. We are equally forgiven because we equally have the same grace, forgiveness, and goodness of Christ given to us as a sheer gift. And unlike our world that seeks happiness in equality but will never find it, you and I have not happiness but gratitude and assurance, for our equality is in Christ.    

Yes, baptized saints, it all depends on Christ and His free gifts, as we all muddle through this life, until the Lord finally takes us home unto Himself and gives all things back to us.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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