What I’m Thinking: Unfair

Is God unfair? It sure looks like it sometimes.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about two passages of Scripture that illustrate, as well as any I can think of, the unfairness of God.

Yes, I said unfairness.

In the fourth chapter of Jonah (Jonah 3:10-4:11), we find the reluctant prophet having fulfilled his mission, but now the word of judgment that he brought to Nineveh, well: the residents had repented and God refused to bring the judgment that had promised. Resentfully, Jonah watches this from the hillside, and is angry because a bush that had sheltered him from the sun was attacked by a worm and died. God asked Jonah why he was angry about the bush, when God, after all, was concerned with all the people of Nineveh.

In Matthew 20 (Matthew 20:1-16), Jesus told the story of the workers in the vineyard. Those who arrived early in the morning were promised a daily wage, a specific daily wage (a denarius, the normal pay for a day’s work). Throughout the day, however, additional workers show up and are sent into the vineyard. They are promised only that they will be paid; there’s no suggestion of what they’ll be paid.

At the end of the day, those who came last receive their wages first. And what do they receive? The same that the folks at the beginning of the day had been promised. The ones who arrived first anticipate that they will therefore be paid more, but they’re not. They receive exactly what they’ve been promised.

Under the labor laws of the United States of America this is, in fact, illegal. If you work longer, you’re supposed to be paid more. That’s just our basic notion of what is fair and what is not.

But the parable of the workers in the vineyard is not about labor relations. It is not about fair compensation for work. The parable of the workers in the vineyard is about relationship with God, and the reward of relationship with God is relationship with God.

There is no higher or lower. Whether one begins that relationship early in one’s life or comes to it late in one’s life, there is only relationship with God to be had. And it is a precious thing, a precious thing indeed, but the only difference is the slight qualitative differences between my relationship and yours. There is no quantitative relationship. I’m not closer to God because I’m a pastor.

It’s just a relationship with God.

And that is the unfairness of it all, isn’t it, that God’s love is spread so widely, to those who have responded easily and eagerly and to those who responded reluctantly and recently? It’s all just the love of God shining over the planet. As the saying went, the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

Thank God for the unfairness of God.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , , | Posted on September 14, 2020

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