This parable is so unfair!
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.
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