Sunday, August 13, 2006

Offensive generosity

The first moral argument of children is, "That's not fair!"

Very few England football fans can forget the 'Hand of God' goal by Diego Maradona that saw England beaten by Argentina in the 1982 World Cup. The sense of unfairness resonates down the years and is not assuaged by the fact that Michael Owen clearly dived to win the penalty by which England defeated Argentina in 2002.

Jesus foresaw all this when he told the parable of the over-generous employer in Matthew chapter 20.

It follows on immediately after the story of the rich young ruler, which has the disciples smugly boasting that they had given up everything to follow Jesus.

The story is about the owner of a vineyard who goes out at 6am to hire grape pickers, agreeing with them a fair day's wage for the job. At 9 am he sees that he needs more laborers so he goes out and hires some more, and so on throughout the day. Finally at 5pm, an hour before knocking-off time, he finds some workers still unemployed. Now you might wonder why they were still unemployed at harvest time at 5pm. You can bet that these were the layabouts, the stupid, the handicapped, the unreliable - the sort of worker that nobody wants. Nonetheless, he employs them too.

At the end of the day the workers come for their pay. Those that had worked for just one hour in the evening were paid what they would have gotten had they worked the whole 12 hours. So it goes on, everyone gets the same. Those who have worked all day are expecting more, after all, had they not borne the heat of the day? They are offended that they only get the same as the 5 o'clock slackers. That's not fair!

The landowner replies, "Did we not agree on such and such a wage. Have I not paid what we agreed. It's my money. Can I not do with it whatever I want?"

That is the offensive generosity of the gospel. For those who cry out for justice beware. You would not really want justice. You would prefer mercy.

That early observation of children is true. Life is unfair.

But the promise of the Gospel is that everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for Jesus' sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.


Vance Esler said...

Looks like you are reading your Bible, too. Keep it up. I am enjoying your insights.

Roger Bourland said...

Good man! Amen, brother.