A Scandalous Generosity

Vineyard

“Comparison is the death of joy.” ― Mark Twain

Jesus lived during a time of oppressive, exclusionary religion where everyone was comparing and judging their spirituality to one another.

He once told a scandalous, controversial story where a landowner went out early to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to hire them for a fair, daily wage.

During the day, at 9am, noon, 3pm and then again at 5pm, he continued to hire people to work in the vineyard.

That evening the landowner told the foreman to call in the workers and he paid all the workers, no matter what time they started, the same fair, full day’s pay.

When the ones who worked all day saw that everyone received equal pay, they protested and complained “Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.”

The landowner answered them, “Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage?  Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you.” 

He continued, “Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?”

The landowner in this story represented God.

This story REMINDS ME that it’s never good to compare God’s generosity with our generosity.

This parable was told by other rabbi’s of Jesus’ day, but those who arrived at the very end earned a whole days pay because they worked extra hard.

In Jesus’ version, however, the emphasis is not on the diligence of the workers but on the gratuitous generosity of the farmer.

IT WAS A MAD, CRAZY, insane act of generosity.

Today, we are offended by the overpayment of loafers and freeloaders. The other workers certainly were.

The workers complained and this was the response of the landowner: “It’s my money, it’s none of your business what I do with my generosity!”

2000 years later, this world is still scandalized and skeptical of God’s generosity.

Yet…

The parables of Jesus reveal a God who is consistently overgenerous with His forgiveness and grace.

He portrays God as a lender canceling a debt, as a shepherd searching for a stray sheep, as a father forgiving his rebellious son.

In this parable, Jesus is loudly proclaiming!! “Salvation does not come from you working harder than someone else, it comes from my unconditional, crazy, irrational GENEROSITY.”

Henry Nouwen gave up his life of comfort to work with severely mentally challenged kids, in a home in Toronto, Canada. He writes, “When you work at this home, you see people who have no worth in our productive society. They don’t do anything. They are just there. Yet you never doubt that God loves them. The handicapped make us realize our handicaps. They strip off the masks we wear, the roles we play that give us a sense of earning our position with God and others. They challenge us to let go of everything we think we have earned all our lives, and open ourselves up to the mystery of the gracious, unconditional love of God.”

This story also REMINDS ME that it’s never good to compare your life to others.

The workers who worked all day, got everything they were promised but lost their joy when they compared their lives to those who seemingly were getting a better deal.

Have you ever compared? We all do it.

When I was in Jr. High, I had a friend who could grow full fledged beard. I still can’t grow one. I was so jealous.

When I was a kid, my favorite cereal was Lucky Charms. When I would go to my friend’s house they would have Lucky Charms in their cupboards. At my house, we bought generic cereal to save money, so we had generic Lucky Charms, which made me envy my friend. It also made me embarrassed to have him over for cereal. Even worse, the generic Lucky Charms were called “Marshmellow Maties” which was horrible for a 6th grade boy.

You can tell I had a rough childhood!!

You get the point though. How quickly we compare and lose our joy.

It gets worse as adults. We compare our looks, careers, titles, degrees, houses, money, kids, grandkids, even retirement plans.

Lailah Gifty Akita writes that “You will be bitter in life, when you compare yourself with others. Run the race of life at your own pace.”

The writer of Proverbs writes that, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

Ultimately, comparing yourself to others dishonors God, because you are one of a kind. When we are trying to be like other people, we are telling God that he made a mistake.

We are all unique, and this broken world needs all of our uniqueness’ to do the will of God.

In fact, you and I only have enough time in our lives to do the will of God and comparing takes that time away.

Constance Chuks Friday stated, “Stop worrying about who’s doing better than you or not. Be better every new day than your previous day” 

Ultimately, this story REMINDS ME that it is never good to compare your good works for earning salvation.

The good news is, salvation is none of our business. Salvation is Jesus’ business!

The Apostle Paul wrote that when we accept what Christ did on the cross for our salvation, then we are adopted into God’s family and we can now call God our Daddy. (Abba Father)

Accepting the gift of the generous landowner gives us equal access to the family of the cross. Whether we joined the family early or late in life, we are now part of an eternal family and families operate differently than organizations, corporations or religion.

Robert DeMoor writes about how the parable of the vineyard workers offends our sense of fairness. Why should everyone get equal pay for unequal work?

“Back in Ontario, Canada when the apples ripened, Mom would sit all seven of us down, Dad included, with pans and paring knives until the mountain of fruit was reduced to neat rows of filled canning jars.

 

She never bothered keeping track of how many we did, though the younger ones undoubtedly proved more of a nuisance than a help: cut fingers, squabbles over who got which pan, apple core fights.

 

But when the job was done, the reward for everyone was the same: the largest chocolate-dipped cone money could buy.

 

A stickler might argue it wasn’t quite fair since the older ones actually peeled apples. But I can’t remember anyone complaining about it.

 

A family understands it operates under a different set of norms than a courtroom.

 

In fact, when the store ran out of ice cream and my younger brother had to make do with a pop-sicle, we felt sorry for him despite his lack of productivity (he’d eaten all the apples he’d peeled that day–both of them).

 

God wants all his children to enjoy the complete fullness of eternal life. No true child of God wants it any other way.”

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

DAILY PRACTICES:

Don’t compare yourself to others

Live in the security of being a part of God’s family

Live in a spirit of gratitude because we serve such a generous LANDOWNER!

Take two minutes to watch this video. You will laugh, but it’s so profound.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=meiU6TxysCg

One thought on “A Scandalous Generosity

  1. Hilarious!

    Hope you are having a great visit and getting some well deserved rest.

    Lanise Hargett Children’s Ministry Director 530-919-6181

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s