The Gospel reading this morning and it reminded me (and one of my young people too - yay) of my talk about it a couple of years ago. First of all we used a sketch called “Workers’ Rights” from (Stephen Deal, Making Waves) which was pretty funny then I talked about the passage.
We’ve chosen this story today because it is one which moves people. I happen to know it is one which moves many people, I’ve spoken to at All Saints and in other churches. It moves us to question God. It’s one of the parables of Jesus that I know makes many people grumble just a little. We don’t feel comfortable with this whole concept of it not being fair.
And the sketch we just saw explores that very well:
It doesn’t seem right: People who do fewer hours work should be paid less than those who do a whole day’s work.
It goes against our human nature to treat people like the vineyard owner treated his labourers. Is it because we feel we’re the labourers who’ve been there since early in the morning. We come to church, maybe every week or every month or even every day and part of us looks to those who come less often and maybe feels a little proud that we go more than they do. And from that pride might come a resentment if we’ve put all this effort in and yet we are still treated as someone who’s only walked into church for the first time this morning.
We are judging God’s decision to love us from our very human perspective. Just as Job was rebuked for questioning God in our first reading so we are rebuked for questioning our concept of what is fair for these labourers and of course therefore what is fair for us.
The message of this parable is simple:
God isn’t fair.
Fairness of this kind is a concept which is of the world not of God.
If God were fair we would get what we deserve.
But God doesn’t give us what we deserve. Through Grace and through his enduring love he gives us everything we need no matter whether we deserve it or not.
God loves us
I think this story was for those followers of Jesus who had become a little bit complacent. Who like the rich young man had ticked off the list of all the good things he was doing and all the bad things he wasn’t doing and thought to himself. Good religious life – sorted.
Some people might say, well if God loves us, why do we have to bother trying to be good? We could just do whatever we want and then convert at the last minute and still be fine. As long as you know when that last minute is of course.
Well the god who loves us would smile at that.
Hopefully we try to be good for our own sakes, for the sake of others not for some kind of reward.