What I’m Thinking: What God Can Give

Jesus told a story about wages and negotiations. What if it was about love?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twentieth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16. It begins with one of Jesus’ stories, one which we usually call, “The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.”

In the story, a landowner goes out to the marketplace to hire workers for the vineyard. He finds some, off they go, and they agree on a fair daily wage for their work. Periodically during the day the same landowner goes back to the same place and finds more people waiting there looking for jobs. The landowner sends them also into the vineyard, including some fairly close to the end of the work day.

When the day ends, the landowner invites them to come up to receive their wages, beginning with those who had arrived last. The landowner presents them with a full day’s wage, the very same thing the landowner had promised to the group that first went into the vineyard. They, of course, get excited about this, thinking that they’re going to receive more, but when they come to the payment table they receive exactly the same: exactly what they have been promised.

They get angry. The landowner asks them a fairly pointed question: “Are you angry because I am generous?” or to read it somewhat word for word in the Greek: “Is your eye evil because I am good?”

This parable isn’t precisely about heaven — I don’t think we earn our way into heaven by performing labors over the course of a lifetime, and I don’t think we get into heaven by making some sort of effort either at the beginning or late in life — but I do think this parable does say something about God’s love.

There is a tendency to believe that if we are early adopters of something, if we if we come early to the community, if we are steadfast and loyal and if we contribute a great deal, then that somehow is worth more than the contributions of people who come later. in human relationships, I suppose there is some merit to that. People who have been around longer have memories and skills that have been honed and developed over the years and they do have things to contribute that are different from those who come later: but that’s contribution to a community. it is not a relationship with God.

In the end, what does God offer us, in all its fullness and wonder and glory? God offers us love. And that love is not going to be quantitatively different from one person to another, no matter whether we come into that relationship early in life or late in life. What else is there going to be but love?

That love will look different from one person to another, I mean, none of us have identical relationships with any human being — and neither, I suspect, does God. But will God love us more for having been in that relationship longer?

What else can God give us but love, this day, in the day to come, in the life to come?

I know it’s easy to resent the “Johnnies Come Lately,” but what else can we give them but love?

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 19, 2023

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