Thursday's Thought for Sunday's Service 

September 21, 2017

Dear Friends,

This week's Thursdays Thought for Sunday's Service is based upon Matthew 20:1-16:

““For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ “ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.””          (Matthew 20:1–16, NIV)

One person says, “Certainly, all people suffer… but why some more than others?”  Another person replies, “Life just isn't fair.”  This short but poignant, imaginary fragment of a conversation indicates a grievance.  In consideration of how we might relate, I am probably not too far off by saying it’s one of the hardest lessons to learn in life … not something so much formally taught, rather experienced through circumstances that demand attention.  Just some of what comes to be revealed through being treated unfairly is: dishonesty; inequality; arbitrariness; bias; absurdity.

What our attention also reveals is not always negative in tenor and tone, however. Another thing that can be discovered is a more sympathetic, positive idea. For example, consider those who’ve been devastated by recent natural disasters. Who can be blamed for finding themselves in the middle of a hurricane, earthquake, forest fire, tsunami, tornado? “Is it fair to see another lose a loved one or a home, when I get to hold on to my own?” Often the reaction to these kinds of losses result in an immediate, overwhelming, generous response from those unaffected, to those seeking aid from devastation, selflessly helping them to regain at least part of what was lost. Is this not connected to, and do we not take our example from the charitable, caring, compassionate characteristic of God?

     


So how do we understand and respond to unfair treatment?  Perhaps a couple of difficult questions might be in order...

1.  Are we not constantly in a competitive human interaction, where struggles over limited resources reveal honest grievances, demanding attention, and often do, have a sharp edge?

2.  Upon closer examination, could the outcomes of our encounters with others sometimes be linked to self-centered motivations?

This passage helps us see ourselves more clearly.  Even if we relate honestly, clearly expressing a well-conceived craving, calculating, complaining side, with dignity and good purpose, we are also taught to see a greater idea found within the generous, graceful, granting goodness of God.


So, doesn’t unfairness painfully related

to limits, laws, and liabilities suggest that,

it is important to be proactive,

re-state one’s circumstance

with an after-hours confab, chat?

 

“We have rightly put in our work and are now here

to take exception, complain, squeak about

our hours of toil,

because we notice you also unfairly paying regard

to one who doesn’t qualify for as much oil.”

 

“This is true,” God notes,

but then purposefully suggests,

“It’s not only about sensibly beating your chests.”

 

“My nature also extends

to those who do not deserve.

I have come to love, forgive, encourage, support,

and serve.”

 

Rev. Richard Wagner