Image found at Classic Mary Moments.
God is holy, loving, creative and generous. If you had to choose one word to describe God, do you think you could do it? When I asked the children at my church this week the same question, they all agreed that one word is not enough to describe God. God is wonderfully complex!
I told them about the word from Old Testament times that people would use to try to capture the essence of God, Yahweh. Most folks agree that this word is a combination of letters that attempted to represent God and might have meant "I am" or "To be". The word Yahweh is really amazing, but event this one can't capture all the details of God. One word simply isn't enough to describe the greatness of God.
This week's gospel lesson was from Matthew 20:1-16. Jesus tells a parable about God's generosity, challenging the common assumption that God rewards people according to what they have earned or deserve. (If you want to read the lesson, I'll post it below.)
In the parable we are reminded of God's generosity. The workers in this story are called to the vineyard to work and the owner adds to the number of workers throughout the day. Some of the day laborers start work in the morning, some at noon, some in the afternoon and some are called to work at the end of the day. At the end of the day all the workers are paid the same wage, no matter if they worked a full day or just a few hours. The full day workers were unhappy with this arrangement, but the end of the day workers were joyfully surprised that the land owner had been so generous.
How would you feel if you came to work early, in the mid-day or at the end of the day and would all be paid the same wage?
Just like trying to find a single word to describe God is impossible, it can be impossible for us to understand the generosity of God. The gifts God gives are not based on our ability or performance, but on God's grace and mercy. All of this can be hard to understand logically, but it is a good thing that God does not treat us in a way based on performance or logic. No matter what we tried, we never would live a perfect life.
In all of God's complexity, it is wonderful to know that grace and mercy are additional facets of his character. While I may not have succeeded in finding a single word to describe God, I have a metaphor of God being like a precious jewel. A jewel is costly, a jewel is beautiful and every time you look at it you can see something wonderful and new in it.
Thank you God for your generosity to us, help us to be generous with everyone you place in our path this week!
Matthew 20:1-16 (New International Version)
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”