Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why are you jealous?

Mat 20:1-16  "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went.   When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same.  And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard.'  When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, 'Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.'  When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.  Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.  And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner,  saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.'  But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?'  So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

 This parable is so unfair!
How can the owner pay the same wages to the worker who put in a full day’s work, as he paid to the worker who only worked at sunset? This is clearly unjust, and a case for the labour unions. But of course they did not have unions..... and Jesus is telling this story making a theological point about the Grace of God.

The Parables of Jesus open themselves to a variety of meanings. One key to this parable is the question asked in Matthew 20:15: ‘are you envious because I am generous?'  The truth is that we human beings are often jealous. As a child I looked anxiously at what my sister was given, and protested loudly if her portion was perceived to be bigger than mine. As an adult I am still tempted to become jealous when I think that someone else has received more favour than me – only now my protest is framed in words of “justice” and “injustice”. But here is the truth of Jesus: nobody deserves anything. All of life is a gift given by a generous God – a life which I have neither deserved, nor earned. It is only when I learn to live life with gratitude for that which I have, that I will be set free from wishing that I had more.

I am at a Convocation of Deacons: 200 men and women meeting together to celebrate their life together as an Order in the Methodist Church of Great Britain. It is clear that some deacons have been advantaged over others: some who are new to the Order have comfortable accommodation of a kind unavailable to those older members - who began their ministry living out of caravans! Equally some deacons have respect and responsibility that were denied to those who pioneered the Order; and whereas the early deacons were expected to remain celibate and single, the Order has changed its rules to allow for married deacons. While this is completely unfair and unjust, today I celebrated the testimonies of some of these older deacons. There was no rancour or unhappiness. Instead they gave thanks to God for the opportunity to be of service.

And I am challenged again to be content with the life I am given.

Pray for : Jan Smith (Birmingham); Kerry Smith (Birmingham); Len Smith (Cheshire South); Pat Soule (Lesnes Abbey).

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise
Folliot S. Pierpoint

Readings taken from the lectionary in the Prayer Book of the British Methodist Diaconal Order


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