I was sitting at a particularly long stop light the other day. My kids were chattering in the back, asking when we would be moving again. I swear it felt like we had been waiting for five minutes, though in reality it couldn’t have been that long. A white truck pulled up next me and within two seconds the light switched to green. One of my kids shouted “That’s not fair! We had to wait longer.”
This got me thinking about the parable Jesus told about the workers in the vineyard. It’s the one where the landowner hires workers at dawn, agreeing to pay them the usual daily wage. Then hires more workers at mid-day, afternoon and evening, agreeing to pay each of them the usual daily wage. At the end of the day, those hired first are outraged that inflation didn’t happen when everyone was paid the same amount. Listen to the landowner’s response:
Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? [Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Mt 20:14-16)
When we drive, we are bound by the rules and regulations of the road. We enter into something like a contractual agreement with the state and the other drivers. I will stop at stop lights, I will use my turn signal, I will stay in my lane. These things are fixed, they keep us safe. But, sometimes they might feel somewhat unfair. We did genuinely have to wait longer than the other car, but we both got to drive away at the same time.
What is and isn’t fair
Fairness is in the eye of the beholder, and usually also in favor of the beholder. When we talk about what’s fair, we are actually talking about what we think we deserve or complaining about what we are lacking. This is the way of a broken humanity. Always comparing, making sure no one has more than us, grasping at what others have.
Thank goodness God is like the stop light! God treats us all the same, no matter if we have been following Him all our life or if we don’t show up until our final breath. The light always turns green. And how does He treat us?
Unconditional, indescribable, unimaginable, overwhelming love
When I stop looking at others and look at Jesus, none of it matters anymore. Who got where when can never compare to the ultimate love God is extending to me, to you, to everyone. The more I look at myself (read here: pride, jealousy, envy, greed, desire for praise, etc.) the less I am looking at God. And the less I look to God, the farther away I drift from His love.
Fortunately for us, God’s love isn’t contingent our our love. As the landowner said, it is his choice to be generous with what he has. His generosity was not dependent on how much the workers worked that day. Just in the same way, God’s love is always being showered upon us. He doesn’t make us wait, perform great works of devotion or sacrifice. All we have to do is open ourselves up, even the smallest crack in our heart, and He will flood our lives with infinite tenderness, love and mercy.
Copyright 2017 Kate Taliaferro