Thursday, 21 August 2014

God & What's Fair

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
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.”
Mtt. 20:1-16

Children may often be heard complaining, "But it's not fair!" No doubt when they perceive a brother or sister received a larger portion than they. But this complaint is not exclusive to only child. In the competition of life and in the interest of social rest, we have establish fairness as the key to maintaining harmonious relations.

But our perception of fairness can easily be carried over to the way we expect our relationship with God to transpire. Since we consider that the good should be rewarded and the bad punished, relating to a God of mercy and forgiveness can be problematic. And when we are told that we must imitate this very same compassionate and merciful behavior in our dealings with others, we hit a stumbling block in our relationship with God. Jesus characterizes this very problem in the parable above.

Justice vs mercy is a long standing issue in the scriptures. In the Old Testament people learn what is right through the Law, and so it is perceived that obeying the law should have its reward. But a problem arises when they see the good suffering. The book of Job tackles the question and struggles to answer why the perfectly God-fearing and Law-biding Job is suffering such disaster.

In the gospels, Jesus meets the problem head on, most profoundly and definitively in his passion, death and resurrection. In Matthew 9: Jesus comes upon a paralyzed man begging - (no doubt considered by all as punishment from God for his sins). Jesus announces his sins forgiven, accompanied by his immediate healing. Later he tells his detractors, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (referring to Ez. 9:23)

Jesus has come to redeem, to rescue souls from death. "Death", is existence apart from God, to exist but to have no participation in the glory of God - not to "live" in the presence of God in the heavenly realm, this is death. Living in God presence is not something we merit, it is pure gift, God's purpose and design intended for every one. We did not choose to exist, and we can never not exist, but we can choose to accept or reject living in God's presence. What is fair is that God wants all people to have the opportunity to live in his presence. 

There is a person who lives in Toledo Ohio, who's first name is Walter - he is real, his name is in the phone book. He does not care if you are sick or in need in any way, like he would for others he knows. We would not say that it is not fair that he does not care about you, he does not even know you exist. But God does know that you exist and does care that you have life eternal - if he did not, that would be unfair. 
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.… Jo. 3:16
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.… 1 Jo. 4:9
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.… 1 Jo. 3:1
Death is God's enemy and so is our enemy also. So this is fair; 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Lk. 15:6

Now a further question might be asked, is it fair that we were given a choice to accept or reject life eternal? Are there rocks in heaven. Do they know where they are?

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