The Unfair Gospel
This Sunday, our Gospel lesson (Matthew 20:1-16) is Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard. If you are not outraged by this parable, you should be. Sometimes Jesus’ stories lose their edge since we live in a very different time and place. Most of us have not pruned branches from dawn to dusk in the heat of the day. But all of us can relate to the feeling of “Hey, I got here first.” Jesus’ parable is ridiculous. How can you pay the same wage to those who worked since before sunrise, and those who came in at the end of the day?
Mr. Kim worked his final Sunday last week. Of course we recognized him and honored him and we gave gifts and we gave hugs. We do not know how to thank him for his 53 years of service to our church. He has been the constant and the face and the heart of this church, even as members and pastors have come and gone. Mr. Kim has truly labored the whole day in the Lord’s vineyard.
Now imagine if someone came and volunteered to put out donuts for one Sunday. And imagine we gave this person equal honor to Mr. Kim… We payed 50 years worth of salary and recognized this individual as being worthy of equal honor for their one week of work. We would never do that! That would be the craziest thing ever! Because in human terms we reward hard work and commitment and ‘time-put-in.’
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)
The Gospel is different. God rewards full lives surrendered to Christ, and deathbed prayers the same. Time spent in the vineyard is not a factor when it comes to our salvation. This is another way of saying that God’s grace is generous, though it may not seem fair in human terms. It is so gratuitously generous that it may not even make sense to us. Yet this is the Gospel we proclaim.