Matthew 20:1-16 - Please read the passage and then slowly read verse 15 seven times. Sit with it in your mind for a while. How are you reacting as you sit with it? Can you verbalise your thoughts in prayer?
‘Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' (verse 15)
One of the most common reactions to reading this story known as’ the workers in the vineyard’ is that the owner was not acting fairly when he gave those had only worked one hour the same as those who had worked hard all day in the scorching sun.
In Jesus’ parables Jesus is not talking about how this world operates but how the kingdom of heaven operates, which is often the opposite to how we act in this world. In this world it may be fair and right and just to reward people according to their efforts and their abilities but in the kingdom of heaven the starting point does not begin with us and our abilities but with God. It begins with a glass full and a glass that continually overflows. We do not need to earn our reward for God has an abundance for everyone. God does not have to carefully count out each person’s share, there is more than enough for everyone. It begins with God (a generous God) and with God’s overflowing abundance of life and love. And our role is just to let that abundant life, that endless love, to flow through us out into all the world in a never ending stream; a well that never runs dry.
Have you ever wondered whether God could be too generous? Could God be unfairly generous? We like to think that God is fair and just, but can we cope with a God who is too generous, a God that we may regard as unfairly generous? Could we be envious of God’s generosity? If God is so incredibly generous what does that mean for us? If everyone’s relationship with God begins with abundance and generosity how does that effect how we live and approach life?
Those of us who distribute food from Coles through the Second Bite program love giving food away. It is such a great feeling. It doesn’t cost us anything but it is so good to save food from ending up in landfill and instead giving it away to everyone and anyone, many of whom then pass it on to others. In a world where everything has a cost it is a pleasure to be involved in something that costs nothing, to be able to freely give. Freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8). There are times though we have to remind ourselves not to judge, not to make judgements about who deserves food and who doesn’t, but to freely give it as we have freely received it and … to mirror what God is like, what love is like and what true humanness is like (quote by Cynthia Bourgeault – The Wisdom Jesus’).
God, most generous and kind, we open our hearts to your abundant life and to your endless love; that as we live in this world our lives may mirror what you are like, what love is like and what true humanness is like, in the way that Jesus did. We thank you for your grace, your generosity and your abundant life. May we bless this world as you bless this world. Amen.
Photo: Sunday Markets, Wellington, Aotearoa
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation