Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on September 18, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 20:1-16a

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In our own day, I think this gospel passage may tell a story that seems to us unjust. In the way that we think, people who work longer hours deserve more money; to us, it may seem as though the master of the vineyard has exploited labor by paying people who work an hour the same as people who work 12 hours.

But scripture elsewhere tells us that God’s ways are not our ways, and we know from our study of the gospels that the entire point of Jesus’ teaching is the necessity of that we act justly. With this background, we perhaps can start to examine this parable from a different paradigm than our usual perspective. The gospel challenges us to understand the nature of God’s justice. It is true that God is just, but we know that God is merciful, compassionate, and benevolent. God is one and indivisible, so we can assume, particularly in light of this gospel passage, that our justice and God’s justice are not the same. God’s justice looks a whole deal more like mercy and compassion than our justice does. The gospel passage isn’t a story about workers who have worked all days not getting what is their due; it is instead a story about people who come into the field late in the day being lavished with God’s love. All of us need God’s love in exactly the same measure: those of who spend our lives from our earliest days on the kingdom require God’s mercy in just the same degree as those of us who arrive late.

Spiritual reading: There are many different ways of bringing people into His kingdom. I have therefore learned to be cautious in my judgement. (C.S. Lewis)

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