When We Don’t Agree With God
by Dr. DeWayne Nichols
Dewayne Nichols is the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:1-16)
I’m going to use this as a starting place and speak to you on this subject: When We Don’t Agree With God.
Our text is the passage in which the Lord Jesus told the parable concerning the laborers in the vineyard. The primary teaching of this parable is that when the time comes at the Judgment Seat of Christ, when the Lord will reward His servants, the rewarding will be done, not in accordance with human standards and human reasoning, but rather the rewarding will be according to Divine standards and Divine reasoning. In other words, Jesus is primarily teaching us in this parable that God’s servants will one day be rewarded, not in accordance with how we human beings think that we should be rewarded, but rather we’ll be rewarded in accordance with how God thinks that we should be rewarded.
It’s for that reason that the Apostle Paul said what he said in I Corinthians 4:5. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” So he said then, until the time of judgment and reward gets here, there is really no need for us to try to judge and determine who are the great servants of God that will be greatly rewarded, because God will determine these things according to His standard, and His standard will take things into consideration that we can’t take into consideration when judging from a human point of view. We don’t know everything. We can only go by what we see, but we can’t see everything. We don’t know what is in somebody’s heart.
By the way, motives DO matter. Paul said, then, that it is useless and senseless for us to try to determine here on earth who is great and who will be greatly rewarded. When the rewarding time and the judging time gets here, the Lord will take a lot of things into consideration that you and I as human beings simply cannot know. If I understand the Bible correctly, I believe that there will be people who will be greatly rewarded by the Lord that we did not necessarily expect to be greatly rewarded, and there will be some that maybe we expected to receive a great reward that will receive little or no reward. So the primary application and teaching of this parable in Matthew 20 has to do with the rewarding being done according to Divine considerations, rather than according to human considerations.
Having pointed that out, there is something else we see in this parable, and this is what I want to focus on. That is the fact that the way we human beings see things is many times different from the way God sees those things. In other words, what I’m saying is that we don’t always agree with God. We see this illustrated in the parable here that Jesus told. The parable concerns a certain Householder, who went out and hired laborers to work for Him in His vineyard. It’s important that we understand that in this parable, the Householder who hired the laborers represents God, and the laborers working in the vineyard represent God’s servants. In that day and time, the work day was from six o’clock in the morning until six o’clock in the evening, a 12 hour work day.
Let’s get this parable in our minds real well. The Householder in the parable hired five different groups at various times during the day. The first group, Jesus said, were hired early in the morning. In other words, they were hired at six o’clock in the morning. An agreement was made to pay this group a certain amount, then they were sent into the vineyard to labor during the day. The first group that was hired, then, worked for 12 hours.
The second group that was hired, the Scripture said that they were hired at the third hour. That means they hired on at nine o’clock in the morning. The first group hired early in the morning, they labored for 12 hours that day. The second group, hired at nine o’clock in the morning, they worked nine hours that day.
Then Jesus said there was a third group that was hired at the sixth hour. That means that they were hired at noontime. The first group was hired early in the morning, sent into the vineyard, and they labored 12 hours. The second group was hired at nine o’clock, sent into the vineyard to work, and labored for nine hours. The third group was hired at noon, sent into the vineyard, and then worked that day for a total of six hours.
Then Jesus said a fourth group was hired at the ninth hour. That means that they were hired at three o’clock in the afternoon. This group worked only three hours. The first group worked for 12 hours. The second group worked for nine hours. The third group worked for six hours. The fourth group worked for three hours.
Jesus said there was a fifth group hired to labor in this man’s vineyard. The fifth group was hired, Jesus said, at the eleventh hour. That means they were hired at five o’clock in the afternoon and only had to work that day in the vineyard for one hour. You have one group that had worked all day long for 12 hours, another group that worked for nine hours, another group that worked for six hours, another group that worked for three hours, and another group that worked that day only one hour.
Well, finally six o’clock in the evening comes. Quitting time arrives, and the laborers went to receive their pay. When the Householder’s steward went to pay the salaries of these workers, he paid every one of them exactly the same amount. In other words, those who had worked only one hour that day received exactly the same amount of pay as those who worked for 12 hours. Obviously, those who worked for 12 hours were not very excited about being paid the same thing as the crowd that worked for only one hour. We can sit here and pretend to be super-spiritual and act like we would be more than happy to go out and work 12 hours and get paid the same thing as the crowd that worked one hour. We can pretend that, but in my case at any rate, it would be nothing but pretense. While we criticize these 12 hour laborers for being upset with their pay, probably any one of us in the same situation would feel the same way these men felt. At least, I know I would.
I’m from west Tennessee. That’s where I grew up. We were very poor, I’m talking back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I grew up as a tenant farmer in a house owned by somebody else. I tell people that house was the one Noah moved out of when he moved onto the ark and went into the flood. We were poor. We didn’t have indoor plumbing or central heat. We were the folks that the poor folks referred to as the poor folks.
I grew up working in the cotton fields of west Tennessee, and I must confess, I hated every minute of it. I grew up working out in the hot sun. The work day in those cotton fields started at six-thirty in the morning and quitting time was six in the afternoon. We’d get an hour and a half from 11:30 to 1:00 for lunch and a nap in my case. The work day out there in the cotton fields was ten hours per day. Say what you will, but if I went out in the cotton patch at six-thirty in the morning, worked all morning long and watch the sun coming up and I’m working as it approaches its meridian and then I work all afternoon in that hottest part of the day as the sun is going down in the western sky. If I worked all day long in the hot sun, and then somebody shows up at five o’clock in the afternoon and works for one hour -- when we go to get our pay, if the fella who worked one hour is paid the exact same amount that I get for working ten hours, friend, that might not bother you, but I promise you it would bother me. I think it would bother you, too and I know it would bother me, and yet that is exactly the situation that is set forth in this parable.
Again, we’ve got to remember that the person who pays the one hour laborers the same that he paid the 12 hour laborers represents the God of Heaven. What I’m saying to you is that here is a situation where the way I see it is different than the way God sees it. It’s a situation where I do not agree with God.
Frankly, it took me a long time to admit this because, like some of you, I always like to think of myself as spiritual and think that I never would disagree with God on anything. Certainly, anything God thinks should be what I think. It took me a long time to get to the point that I would even admit to myself that the way I see things sometimes is different from how God sees things, but in all honesty, I know I don’t always see things the same way God sees them.
For example, look back if you would to the book of I Chronicles. In chapter 13 we have the first part of the story of the ark of the covenant being taken up to the place that David had prepared for it in the city of Jerusalem. We begin in verse six. “And David went up, and all Israel, to Baalah, that is, to Kirjath-jearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up thence the ark of God the Lord, that dwelleth between the cherubims, whose name is called on it. And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab: and Uzza and Ahio drave the cart. And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.” (I Chronicles 13:6-10)
I know all about what is involved, and David following the pattern of the heathen by having the ark of the covenant on a cart and carrying it that way, rather than having the Levitical Kohathites carry it by hand as God had instructed. I know all of that, but here we have this situation where David the King may have been wrong in how he carried the ark and what he was attempting to do, but here is this man Uzza. Uzza is in that cart as the oxen are pulling it toward Jerusalem with God’s ark on that new cart. Suddenly the oxen, for some reason, stumbled and so the ark begins to shake and Uzza, afraid that the ark is going to fall off the cart and be broken to pieces, reaches out and takes hold of it in order to steady it so that it won’t fall, and Uzza dies because of that. God smites him and takes his life. My initial reaction to that is “Well, Lord, Uzza didn’t deserve to die for that. Good night, he wasn’t trying to do a bad thing. In fact, he was trying to do a good thing,” and yet God took his life. I’m saying that I see it differently from how God saw it. My initial reaction and feeling about this is that I don’t agree with the Lord.
Let me show you a contrast in I Chronicles 15:26-29. “And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams. And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, and all the Levites that bare the ark, and the singers, and Chenaniah the master of the song with the singers: David also had upon him an ephod of linen. Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps.”
Can you see the scene? Here the ark of God, that most sacred piece of furniture in all Israel, is being brought to Jerusalem, and the people are happy. David, the king, leading this procession, is shouting with joy because now the ark of God is going to be in close proximity to his palace. There is a spirit of joy and an attitude of praise as God’s ark is going to its resting place.
Then I want you to notice how David’s wife responded to this situation in verse 29. “And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing and playing: and she despised him in her heart.” Here is David praising God, trying to do something for the Lord, and his wife looks at what he is doing and despises and disdains him and holds him in contempt because of what he is trying to do for the Lord. She was an albatross around his neck and added a burden to his life as he was trying to serve God, and yet the Lord kept her around.
Now look at Ezekiel 24:15-16. “Also the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down.” In verse 18 Ezekiel said, “So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded.” In direct and striking contrast to David’s wife, Michal, who disdained him as he tried to serve the Lord, here we have Ezekiel’s wife. Ezekiel’s wife was a great blessing to him. So much so, that the Lord referred to Ezekiel’s wife as ‘the desire of his eyes,’ and a great blessing to her husband, and yet God who left David’s wife who held him in contempt for his service for the Lord, while God kept her around, the same God reaches down and takes this good wife of Ezekiel’s who was a great blessing to him, takes her on to Heaven and leaves Ezekiel here without her. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not God, but if I had been God, I would have taken David’s wife and left Ezekiel his wife.
May I say to you that I sometimes see good, godly men trying to serve the Lord and their wife is Jezebel Junior. I often see sweet, godly, Christian ladies trying to serve the Lord and they are married to men that are as sorry as the devil. I sometimes think, “Lord, if I were You, I would have worked it out where the sorry devils ended up being married to the Jezebels and the good, godly men were married to the sweet, godly ladies.” That’s how I would do things, but that’s not always how God does it. His ways are not our ways.
It was January, and I was booked to be with Brother Gomez, preach on Wednesday night and teach a module in the college on Thursday and Friday. As I was driving up the secretary contacted me and asked if I could stay over and preach on Sunday as well. They told me that the doctor had given Mrs. Gomez six weeks to live. My thought was, “He’s probably giving the worst case scenario,” so in my mind I figured that she’d live at least a few more months, maybe even a year or two. In fact, I thought maybe Brother Gomez was planning to take her somewhere.
I met with Brother Gomez on Wednesday before church, and he told me the condition she was in. After the service that night, Brother Smith was there, we went over to Brother Gomez’s house and he took us in to see Mrs. Carla Gomez. Honestly, it was like somebody hit me in the stomach. One of the best ladies that I’ve ever known in my life is lying there. Just weeks ago she had been vibrant and filled with life, looking healthy and robust, and now she was lying there in the bed with her cheeks sunken in and her eyes sunken in and her arms about that big around. I thought, “Dear God in Heaven, there are preachers all over whose wives make their existence a living hell, and here is a good, godly woman, married to a good, godly preacher, and she’s dying.”
I stood there thinking, “Lord, this good, godly woman, You are going to take her to Heaven and there are preachers that might be better off if You did take their wives to Heaven, and here You are taking this good, godly woman from this fella who loved his wife. They had a close relationship, loved to be around each other, godly people.” God took her from his side. I can’t even imagine the pain and loss.
I preached that Sunday and Mrs. Carla Gomez went to Heaven the following Saturday morning. By the way, let me say this, too. I saw in the midst of all of that true friendship in action -- Brother Dan Woodward. I watched him step in and take care of detail after detail for Brother Gomez. I thought, “That must have been what Jonathan was like to David.” What I’m saying is this: here is a situation, frankly, where I didn’t agree with God. I don’t understand why God did what He did here, but stay with me.
I’ve been preaching and teaching in the book of Revelation at our church. In preaching about the seven churches in chapters two and three, I was struck by a very interesting thing. Of the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three, the best of those seven churches, at least as far as what we are told in the Bible, is the church in Smyrna. It was the church that received not one word of censure or criticism from the Lord Jesus, nothing but commendation and praise, yet you check it out and you’ll find that was the poorest church of the seven.
Then you get to that seventh one, the lukewarm church at Laodicea, the church that relegated Jesus to a place outside the door and He’s out there knocking, trying to get into His own church, and yet that church was rich. I read that and I thought, “Lord, if I were You, I would have switched things around. I would have made the church in Smyrna the wealthy church, and I would have made the church in Laodicea the church that was poor.”
I see that to this day. I know of liberal, modernistic churches that don’t believe the Bible, don’t even believe that Jesus was the Son of God that have millions to waste, then I know of good, doctrinally sound, separated churches where sinners get saved, that can barely keep their heads above water financially and I think, “Dear God, why don’t You take some of the millions away from the church that doesn’t even believe Your Word and put it in the coffers of those churches that would use it for Your honor and glory.” I’m saying I don’t see it the way God sees it.
I brought myself to admit that I don’t always see things the same way God does. I don’t always agree with God. Now go ahead and pretend if you want to, but in case there is somebody here that will admit the truth that, like me, you don’t always see things the way God does, I want to tell you some things that have helped me when I face situations where God is doing something that’s totally different from how I would do it, and I don’t agree with it. What do I need to do? Let me give you four things.
#1. The first and the foremost thing that I need to do when I don’t agree with God, I need to understand that God is right, and I’m wrong. That’s first and foremost. God is right, and I am wrong. One of the attributes of God is the attribute of righteousness and justice. In practical application, that means that God always does the right thing. God doing the right thing is not dependent on me understanding it. It’s not dependent on me agreeing with it. God always does the right thing.
When Abraham was interceding for Sodom in Genesis 18:25, he asked that great self-answering rhetorical question, that simply to ask it is to answer it. Abraham said to the Lord, “...Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Yes, the Judge of all the earth will do right. He always does right.
You can see it even in the parable in Matthew 20. Notice in verse four the Householder said to the laborers, “...Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you...” Down in verse seven, “They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” Down to verse 13, “But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong:...”
God is always just. God is always fair. God is always righteous. When I disagree with God, it simply means that I’m wrong because God is always right. I disagree with God about slaying Uzza. Do you know what that means? It means God is right, and I’m wrong. I disagree with God about leaving David’s wife and taking Ezekiel’s. Do you know what that means? That means I’m wrong, and God is right. I disagree with God about allowing the church in Smyrna to be poor, while allowing the Laodicean church to be wealthy. Do you know what that means? It means that I’m wrong, and God is right. I’m simply saying that regardless of the issue we are talking about, if I disagree with God it means He’s right, and I’m wrong.
We all learned much from Dr. Hyles. I remember hearing Dr. Hyles tell about preaching somewhere, and they were having a question/answer session. He said that a preacher stood up and asked this question. Of course, Brother Hyles was perceptive and figured out where the guy was going with it, but the fella asked, “Dr. Hyles, what is your plan for baptizing converts?”
Dr. Hyles said, “Well, my plan is that when a person makes a profession of faith, we ought to wait about six months and see if he is going to live for the Lord, see if he is going to make it, see if he is going to pan out, and then once he proves himself and proves he is going to live for the Lord, then we ought to baptize him.”
The preacher said, “Well, I’m a little bit surprised, Dr. Hyles, that is your plan. That’s my plan, too.”
Dr. Hyles said, “Yeah, that’s my plan, but then I read the Bible and I found out that God’s plan is that you baptize them as soon as they get saved, so I decided I’d go by God’s plan instead of my plan.”
That’s exactly what I’m saying. When we get to the point of admitting and accepting that how we see it is different from how God sees it, which simply means we’re wrong, and God is right. That’s the first thing I need to understand.
#2. When I don’t agree with God, I need to keep in mind that God knows things about the issue that I don’t know. God knows things that I don’t know. In Isaiah 55:8-9 the prophet said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God doesn’t think like we do.
I love that verse in Psalm 50:21. “...thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee,...” I think I know a lot of people that think God is just like them. By the way, once in a while I’ll hear a preacher even say something along the line that I know God is this way because that’s how I am. Excuse me, you are made in the image of God, but God is not made in the image of you. I need to understand that God sees some things and knows some things that I don’t know. If I knew all that God knew, then chances are, I’d see it like He sees it.
Your children, sometimes, don’t agree with you, but if they knew what you know, they might agree with you. A little four-year-old kid wonders why can’t he just eat candy all day long? You won’t let him. But the reason is because you know something he doesn’t know. You know that wouldn’t be good for him. Let me just show you one situation.
Look at Isaiah 57:1. The prophet said, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.” Here is a situation where some good, godly person dies seemingly before their time. They are taken away. In this particular situation, the Lord said that He removed them in order to prevent them from having to face something that they would have had to face in the future had they stayed here on earth and God saw it would be better for them not to have to face that, so He goes ahead and takes them to Heaven. We can’t see all of that. I’m saying that if we could see what God sees, we might be more likely to agree with God.
#3. When I don’t agree with God, I need to walk by faith. Paul reminded us in II Corinthians 5:7, “(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)” Child of God, if we knew everything God knows and could see everything that He sees, there wouldn’t be any faith involved in following Him. When we don’t see things the way He does, we don’t agree with what He is doing, that’s when faith enters the picture and we accept by faith that, even though we don’t understand it and may not, with our limited finite knowledge, agree with it, yet we accept by faith that God is right and will always do the right thing and we go ahead and serve Him. I must walk by faith.
#4. I need to continue doing right. Don’t allow the fact that you don’t understand what God is doing and don’t agree with God on what He is doing, don’t allow that to cause you to stop doing the things that you know you are supposed to do. I know I’m supposed to spend time in God’s Word. Whether I agree with something over here and can see what God is doing or not, I still know I’m supposed to spend time in His Word. I know I’m supposed to pray. I know I’m supposed to tell people about Christ. I know I’m supposed to be faithful to the house of God. I know I’m supposed to tithe and give offerings. I know I’m supposed to live a separated life. I know I’m supposed to try to help people, so I need to just keep on doing the things that I know I’m supposed to be doing when those times come that I see things differently from God.
I heard Dr. Bob Hughes, a great missionary to the Philippines. In fact, Rick Martin, missionary to the Philippines, told me that it was Bob Hughes that was ultimately the one that was used of the Lord to call him to the Philippines. Bob Hughes had one of the largest churches on the mission field back in the 70’s. Things were going great on the island of Cebu and then he got cancer. He was only in his early 40’s I think.
I have the tape somewhere of the last sermon that Bob Hughes preached in El Paso, Texas, on Sunday morning before he died on Tuesday. This would have been about 1977. I heard Bob Hughes testify in that last sermon he preached how that it just troubled him and really shook him when he found out he had cancer. Not that he was afraid to die, but just that he was young and serving the Lord. Everything was going great. The work was progressing. Yet here he finds out he has cancer. He lay there in the hospital bed troubled about it and not understanding it and a little bit upset. One of his church members, a lady came to see him in the hospital and he said she told him, “Preacher, you know this bothered us so very much until we remembered that verse you taught us.” Don’t you love it when your church members do that?
He said, “What verse?”
She said, “You remember that verse in I Thessalonians 5:18 that said, ‘In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.’ ”
He said that he lay there and thought, “I guess I’d better start practicing what I’ve been preaching all this time.” Bob Hughes testified that by the time he left that hospital, and he died just a few months later, but he said that by the time he left that hospital he was able to walk out the doors of that hospital thanking God for cancer.
I don’t think I could do that. I really don’t, but Bob Hughes did. He came to a time in his life when how he saw it still wasn’t the same way God saw it, but he ultimately came to the conclusion that, regardless of all of that, God is always right. He’s always good. He’s always just. He will always do the right thing.
We’ve got to be faithful and we’ve got to encourage ourselves, because we’re going to face some tough situations in this life when we don’t understand the how’s or why’s of what God is doing. That’s when we’re going to have to exercise our faith and say, “I know God is good. I know God is just. I know He is righteous and always does the right thing. I know that Romans 8:28 is true, regardless of whether I can see it or not. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Just keep on serving God and doing right, even when you don’t understand. Just accept by faith that God is right. One day when we get over on the other side and look back, perhaps we’ll see the things that God could see that were hidden to us during this life. We’ll be able to see maybe what He was doing in some of these situations where we are hurt and confused, when we don’t agree with God.