Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's Just Not Fair!

The news this week has been mostly about the collapse of the stock market on Wall Street fueled by the fact that some of the major financial institutions were going bankrupt and/or were requesting bail outs from our federal government.
There has been much discussion by the news commentators and the candidates for president about where to point the finger of blame. One article I read this week put the blame where it probably needs to be and that is on greed. As Robert Samuelson put it, “…short-term rewards blinded them to the long-term dangers.”
So what does this have to do with today’s lessons from scripture? The lessons are about the grace of God. The parable about the landowner who hired men to work in his vineyards was all about a standard of grace that many find hard to accept.
Why should someone who didn’t work as hard or as long as the other get paid the same wages? It’s just not fair. Sounds like something we’d hear from our children, doesn’t it?
The confirmation class was playing a game last week where they received a word and then were asked to describe it either by drawing, word clues, or pantomime. One of the words was grace and the option was to use words to get someone to answer grace. Now how easy do you think that was? Believe it or not one of the class members came up with the answer. The clue was a free gift from God. I thought that was pretty good. I know that I couldn’t have come up with that answer when I was in 7th grade.
So how would you describe grace? I came across a saying that puts it this way: Just is getting what you deserve; mercy is not getting what you deserve; grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
God, we have all learned doesn’t do things by the ways of the world. He works to standards that don’t seem fair to us. Everyone who comes to him is accepted into the family of God no matter when they make the decision to accept Jesus as their Savior. The last received into the family is loved just as much as the first who came into the family. Doesn’t seem fair does it?
When Jesus came into our world the world had a hard time understanding his theology. A God who loved without reservation, who loved everyone so completely, who forgave sins and forgot the sins committed, and who cared as deeply for the lost and the least as much as he did for those who had everything was not the God they knew.
They understood a God who could be petitioned for wants and needs, a God who would give them what they asked for if they earned it or at least that’s how they saw it. They had gotten so far away from the kingdom of God that they just couldn’t believe there was anything free anymore.
The common person in Jesus’ day understood what it meant to work for their food and if they were lucky there might be enough left over to provide some other comforts for the family. But it all had to earned through hard labor. They understood hard labor. Everything they did was hard labor, nothing was easy.
And then Jesus tells this parable about the landowner and the day laborers who all received the same wage no matter when they came to work in the vineyard.
He paid those who were hired last first and gave them the exact same wage as those he had hired early in the day. Of course those hired first saw what the last workers hired got paid and they were quickly calculating how much their pay would be based on what these men had received.
Can’t you just imagine the whining when they received the same amount of money as the last hired? This isn’t fair!! In fact we have all probably used these very same words. It isn’t fair!!!
If they hadn’t seen what the others had received they would have been perfectly satisfied with their wage. The same things are still happening today. Someone gets the same compensation as we do and we “know” they didn’t do half as much as we did. And so we give them or our “boss” the evil eye.
Judging our value based on what others get or give will always lead to the “evil eye.” Our value isn’t based on others.
It’s a good thing for us that God chooses to love us with his all. Our God pours all his love out for each of us. It isn’t fair but it’s a good thing for all of us that God doesn’t do things by the world’s standards.
The prophet Isaiah said it well when he said, “For my thoughts aren’t your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”
That’s what grace is, an undeserved and unearned gift from our God. There is nothing we have done to deserve it and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do to earn it.
So those who answer Jesus’ knock on the door of their heart on their death bed receive the same grace as those who have known the Lord and done his work many, many years. It isn’t fair but friends, it’s not about us. It’s all about God and his plan for the world.
The Israelites travelling in the wilderness didn’t deserve the free bread and meat that God gave them but he gave anyway. Paul didn’t deserve the many blessings God gave him but he received them anyway. We don’t deserve God’s love either but thankfully God doesn’t give us what we deserve. He is merciful and gracious and gives us the free gift of eternal life when we commit our lives to Jesus.
So what does all this have to do with the financial state of the world today and everything that’s been on the news this week? Friends, I don’t have to tell you the worlds a mess. And I would dare say that all of them have been caused by us. Our culture has become more greedy and fearful. We are all about getting and not so much about giving. We see what our neighbors have and we think, “Why can’t I have that?”
Some commentators might be telling us that the whole problem is the economy but I believe it has more to do with the morality of the world. Those who have much wealth are getting rich whether they make good or bad decisions. And the consumers and workers are the ones who suffer from all their bad choices.
Friends, God never promised us that we were going to be blessed with wealth and mansions. He did promise us eternal life. Eternal life is the good news and the promise is here today.
God sent his Son not to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. All he asks is that we have faith and even our faith is grace.
It’s all God and not us. Don’t pay any attention to what your neighbor has. Don’t even think about whether it’s fair or not. Pay attention to what God is saying to you in his Word. Go there every day and spend some time with the Father as he gives you what you don’t deserve, his gracious love. And then go out and share it with someone else who doesn’t deserve it either.
…By grace you have saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Friends God loves you and so do I.
Receive this blessing of grace from God. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give your peace” (Num. 6:24-26).

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