“We all received . . . undeserved kindness upon undeserved kindness.”—JOHN 1:16.
1, 2. (a) Describe Jesus’ illustration of the owner of the vineyard. (b) How does the story illustrate the qualities of generosity and undeserved kindness?
A WINEGROWER went to the marketplace early one morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. The men he found agreed to the wage he offered and went to work. The owner needed more workers, however, and returned to the marketplace throughout the day to hire more and more men, offering a fair wage even to those whom he hired at the end of the afternoon. When evening came, he gathered the workers together to give them their wages, and he gave the same amount to each of them, whether they had labored many hours or just one. When those first hired realized this, they complained. The winegrower replied: ‘Did you not agree to the wage I offered? Do I not have the right to give all my workers whatever I want? Are you envious because I am generous?’—Matt. 20:1-15, ftn.
2 Jesus’ parable reminds us of one of Jehovah’s qualities that is often mentioned in the Bible—his “undeserved kindness.” (Read 2 Corinthians 6:1.) The workers who had labored only one hour did not seem to merit receiving the full wage, but the owner of the vineyard showed them extraordinary kindness. Regarding the word for “undeserved kindness,” which is translated “grace” in many Bible versions, one scholar wrote: “The whole basic idea of the word is that of a free and undeserved gift, of something given to a man unearned and unmerited.”
JEHOVAH’S GENEROUS GIFT
3, 4. Why and how has Jehovah shown undeserved kindness toward all mankind?
3 The Scriptures speak of “the free gift of God’s undeserved kindness.” (Eph. 3:7) Why and how does Jehovah bestow this “free gift”? If we met all of Jehovah’s requirements perfectly, his kindness toward us would be deserved. As it is, we fail to do so. Thus, wise King Solomon wrote: “There is no righteous man on earth who always does good and never sins.” (Eccl. 7:20) The apostle Paul likewise stated: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and “the wages sin pays is death.” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23a) That is what we deserve.
4 Jehovah, however, expressed his love toward fallen mankind in an incomparable act of undeserved kindness. He sent his greatest gift of all, “his only-begotten Son,” to earth to die in our behalf. (John 3:16) So Paul wrote concerning Jesus that he is “now crowned with glory and honor for having suffered death, so that by God’s undeserved kindness he might taste death for everyone.” (Heb. 2:9) Yes, “the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 6:23b.
5, 6. What are the results when we are ruled (a) by sin? (b) by undeserved kindness?
5 How did humans inherit the sinful, dying condition that plagues us all? The Bible explains: “By the trespass of the one man [Adam] death ruled as king” over Adam’s descendants. (Rom. 5:12, 14, 17) Happily, though, we can choose no longer to be ruled, or dominated, by sin. By exercising faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice, we place ourselves under the rule of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. How so? “Where sin abounded, undeserved kindness abounded still more. To what end? So that just as sin ruled as king with death, so also undeserved kindness might rule as king through righteousness leading to everlasting life through Jesus Christ.”—Rom. 5:20, 21.
6 Even though we remain sinners, we need not resign ourselves to having sin dominate our lives. When we do give in to sin, we will ask Jehovah for his forgiveness. Paul warned Christians: “Sin must not be master over you, seeing that you are not under law but under undeserved kindness.” (Rom. 6:14) Therefore, we come under the rule of undeserved kindness. With what result? Paul explained: “The undeserved kindness of God . . . trains us to reject ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things.”—Titus 2:11, 12.
UNDESERVED KINDNESS “EXPRESSED IN VARIOUS WAYS”
7, 8. What does it mean that Jehovah’s undeserved kindness is “expressed in various ways”? (See opening pictures.)
7 The apostle Peter wrote: “To the extent that each one has received a gift, use it in ministering to one another as fine stewards of God’s undeserved kindness that is expressed in various ways.” (1 Pet. 4:10) What does that mean? That whatever the nature of the trials we may face in life, Jehovah can enable us to cope with them. (1 Pet. 1:6) There will always be an expression of God’s kindness that will match each trial.
8 Indeed, Jehovah’s undeserved kindness is expressed in various ways. The apostle John wrote: “We all received from his fullness, even undeserved kindness upon undeserved kindness.” (John 1:16) The various expressions of Jehovah’s kindness result in our receiving many blessings. What are some of them?
9. How do we benefit from Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, and how can we show our gratitude for it?
9 Being forgiven of our sins. Because of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, we have our sins forgiven, provided we repent and continue to put up a hard fight against our sinful inclinations. (Read 1 John 1:8, 9.) God’s mercy should fill us with gratitude and move us to glorify him. Writing to fellow anointed Christians, Paul stated: “[Jehovah] rescued us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins.” (Col. 1:13, 14) Being forgiven of our sins opens the door to many other wonderful blessings.
10. What do we enjoy because of God’s undeserved kindness?
10 Having a peaceful relationship with God. In our sinful state, from birth we were enemies of God. Paul acknowledged this: “When we were enemies we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son.” (Rom. 5:10) This reconciliation enables us to be at peace with Jehovah. Paul links this privilege to Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, stating: “Now that we [Christ’s anointed brothers] have been declared righteous as a result of faith, let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have obtained access by faith into this undeserved kindness in which we now stand.” (Rom. 5:1, 2) What a blessing this is!
11. How do the anointed bring the “other sheep” to righteousness?
11 Being brought to righteousness. All of us are unrighteous by nature. But the prophet Daniel foretold that during the time of the end, “those having insight,” the anointed remnant, would be “bringing the many to righteousness.” (Read Daniel 12:3.) By their preaching and teaching work, they have brought millions of “other sheep” into a righteous standing before Jehovah. (John 10:16) However, this has been possible only through Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. Paul explained: “It is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by his [God’s] undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.”—Rom. 3:23, 24.
12. How is prayer related to God’s undeserved kindness?
12 Approaching God’s throne through prayer. Jehovah in his undeserved kindness grants us the blessing of approaching his heavenly throne in prayer. In fact, Paul calls Jehovah’s throne “the throne of undeserved kindness” and invites us to approach it “with freeness of speech.” (Heb. 4:16a) Jehovah has afforded us this privilege through his Son, “by means of whom we have this freeness of speech and free access with confidence through our faith in him.” (Eph. 3:12) Free access to Jehovah in prayer is indeed a wonderful expression of his undeserved kindness.
13. How can undeserved kindness “help us at the right time”?
13 Finding help at the right time. Paul encouraged us to approach Jehovah freely in prayer, “so that we may receive mercy and find undeserved kindness to help us at the right time.” (Heb. 4:16b) At any time that we are plagued with trials or turmoil in our life, we can cry out to Jehovah for his merciful help. Undeserving as we are, he answers our call, often through fellow Christians, “so that we may be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”—Heb. 13:6.
14. How does Jehovah’s undeserved kindness benefit our hearts?
14 Receiving comfort for our hearts. A great blessing that comes to us through Jehovah’s undeserved kindness is comfort for a distressed heart. (Ps. 51:17) To Christians in Thessalonica, who were experiencing persecution, Paul wrote: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and gave everlasting comfort and good hope by means of undeserved kindness, comfort your hearts and strengthen you.” (2 Thess. 2:16, 17, ftn.) How comforting it is to be aware of the loving care that we receive from Jehovah because of his generous kindness!
15. Thanks to God’s undeserved kindness, what hope do we have?
15 Having the prospect of everlasting life. As sinners, on our own we would have no hope. (Read Psalm 49:7, 8.) But Jehovah provides us with a wonderful hope. Jesus promised his followers: “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who recognizes the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life.” (John 6:40) Yes, the hope of eternal life is a gift, a wonderful expression of God’s undeserved kindness. Paul, who certainly appreciated that fact, said: “The undeserved kindness of God has been manifested, bringing salvation to all sorts of people.”—Titus 2:11.
DO NOT ABUSE GOD’S UNDESERVED KINDNESS
16. How did some early Christians abuse God’s undeserved kindness?
16 While undeserved kindness from Jehovah provides us with many blessings, we should not presumptuously think that he condones all conduct. Among the early Christians, there were some who attempted to “turn the undeserved kindness of . . . God into an excuse for brazen conduct.” (Jude 4) These unfaithful Christians apparently thought that they could sin and then count on Jehovah to forgive them. Worse still, they endeavored to entice their brothers to join them in their contemptuous ways. Even today, anyone doing that “has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness.”—Heb. 10:29.
17. What strong counsel did Peter give?
17 Today, Satan has misled some Christians into thinking that they can presume on God’s mercy and commit sins with impunity. But while Jehovah is willing to forgive repentant sinners, he expects us to put up a strong fight against our sinful tendencies. He inspired Peter to write: “You, therefore, beloved ones, having this advance knowledge, be on your guard so that you may not be led astray with them by the error of the lawless people and fall from your own steadfastness. No, but go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—2 Pet. 3:17, 18.
UNDESERVED KINDNESS BRINGS RESPONSIBILITIES
18. Because of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, what responsibilities do we have?
18 As grateful recipients of Jehovah’s kindness, we owe it to him and to our neighbor to use our gifts to honor God and benefit our fellow man. In what ways? Paul answers: “Since, then, we have gifts that differ according to the undeserved kindness given to us . . . if it is a ministry, let us be at this ministry; or the one who teaches, let him be at his teaching; or the one who encourages, let him give encouragement; . . . the one who shows mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Rom. 12:6-8) The undeserved kindness that Jehovah extends to us puts us under obligation to busy ourselves in the Christian ministry, to teach the Bible to others, to encourage fellow Christians, and to forgive any who may offend us.
19. What responsibility of ours will be examined in the next article?
19 As grateful recipients of God’s generous love, we should be moved to do our utmost “to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God.” (Acts 20:24) This responsibility will be examined in detail in the following article.