TUESDAY, MARCH 29TH
A TIME FOR A STORY
Jesus has a longer story to tell today, so he begins right away…
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matthew 20:1-16)
As you think about this story, can you recall a time when you felt you had been cheated, or unfairly treated, or not given proper recognition for your work or service? Do you struggle to understand those who seem lazy or unmotivated? How does this story touch your soul?
One doesn’t have to look at social media very long to see how people react when life seems unfair. I see complaints because a young athlete gets a trophy “just for participating,” or because someone in the checkout line uses food stamps to buy steak, or because the suggestion is made to forgive student loans. We may have the tendency to react out of envy (I wish I could have had…) or out of resentment (it isn’t fair – I didn’t get to…) or out of skepticism (others are taking advantage of...).
While I was serving as a youth director, one student messaged me privately to ask these questions: “Why didn’t God send Jesus sooner? What about all the people who died before Jesus came?” I assured her that Jesus came to show God’s love for all time and all people. I never heard from her again, and I wondered if she didn’t like the idea of Jesus being so unfair or far too generous.
We can find lots of other examples of the “unfairness” of God as we live our life of faith. How often might we believe that some of us are more deserving of the kingdom? Does it seem unfair that perhaps everyone will receive the heavenly kingdom one day?
Shouldn’t our faith get us a bonus or something?
It does. We are the fortunate ones. We are the ones who have already known and experienced the love of Christ. We are the blessed, the ones who know the good news and can live it starting today. Through faith, we have the awareness of the kingdom here with us; we have the presence of God in Christ within us. We are living all these bonus days of peace, love, joy, and hope right now, because we know there will always be a resurrection.
We will all have glorious eternity after death – but our eternity has already begun!