Gleanings – A Grave Injustice with which We All Can Live!

Matthew 20:1-16

“Or do you begrudge my generosity?”

My friend Richard is the proverbial “older brother.” He isn’t really any longer but he allows me to maintain the notion because it helps me with sermons and articles like this. And the martyr in Richard likes being the foil if not a whipping boy. It works for him on a lot of levels. Anyway, so he is the older brother. He says, “Grace for me, justice for everyone else.” He hates that he has done all the rights things in life but father killed the fatted calf for the slacker younger brother. He really doesn’t mind not having the fatted calf. He is not gluttonous or covetous. But it grates terribly on Richard when the “less” deserving gets “more” unmerited favor. In a modern day analogy it unnerves Richard when he gets a ticket for doing 80 when the guy who blew by him at 90 speeds right along. It’s so unjust!

Poor Richard is ensnared by the story of the prodigal or lost son. Unfortunately he gets no relief in the parable of the householder. Some labor 12 hours, others 9, 6 and 3 hours, and some just 1. At the end of the day the householder paid all a denarius which was the amount he contracted for with those who worked the full 12 hours (apparently everyone else went into the field without an agreement seemingly grateful to have a job).  All were paid the same though some worked just 1/12 the time of others. It’s so unjust!

Yep. Grace (“my generosity”) is unjust. And for that I am eternally grateful. What is required of us is to remember that we are never always the older brother or the laborer who works a 12 hour day. At some point or on some matter we come to our senses late. One man learns fidelity early in life and practices it faithfully only to find at age fifty he has let the sun go down on his anger for forty years. He is the older brother on the former and the slacker on the latter. That is the story of man. And God’s response is to give each what is required to enter the kingdom heaven, a denarius. I don’t get in because I am better. I just get in.

This is sobering. It should be humbling. The truth is we all are inclined on occasion to make ourselves the older brother. But when all is said and done we cannot afford justice. We all need grace and should begrudge it not.

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