“Nothing you do can make God love you any more. Nothing you do can make God love you any less.” Does that sound about right for a God of grace?
Now, if we can just believe it. Or at least believed it was good news.
In this parable, the landowner pays everyone equally no matter how much work they did. One hour or the heat of the entire day, all of them got what they needed to buy food that day.
Well, isn’t that nice?
Unless you’re the one who worked all day long. And suddenly find yourself paid the same as someone who goofed around all day and showed up for the last hour. That’s hardly fair.
Everyone getting paid the same amount.
Well, isn’t that nice?
Unless you’re the one who worked for an hour. Feeling guilty for getting something you didn’t earn, and putting up with the complaints and the scornful looks of your neighbors who were in the sun all day long.
But that’s what a God of grace is like. Sometimes it’s not fair because others are getting something you’ve worked very hard for, and sometimes you feel like a freeloader receiving something you don’t deserve. I don’t think we really like grace as much as we think we do. At least we don’t act like it.
Some of us feel indignation because we have worked all day, if you will.
For example: We may not like grace when it comes to immigration. Some of us have earned citizenship. We are here legally and therefore deserve the rights and privileges that come with being citizens of the United States. Others who are here haven’t earned it. They have come across the borders without documentation and therefore shouldn’t have what the rest of us have. You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat. That’s grace.
Or some may not like grace when it comes to homosexuality and marriage. Some have the legal benefits of marriage while others don’t. When those [who worked for only one hour] came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Grace is hard.
Even something as basic as food can be difficult to accept with grace. Some work hard to be able to buy food for their families. Others have food provided by charities or even the government. I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. A God of grace can be hard to deal with.
God’s grace is hard for us when you get down to it, because God deals with us much differently than we want to deal with each other. In God’s view, every person, regardless of age, height, sex or sexual orientation, race, morality, health, political view, or even faith is loved, forgiven, and shown generosity. All of us. It seems that showing forgiveness and grace to anyone—to everyone—is God’s primary real concern. Who we are and what we do and how we live doesn’t affect at all God’s picture of generosity and grace. And that isn’t likely to change.
What’s more, we, the church, are called to show anyone that same kind of generosity and grace that God shows—without condition. Every person.
Though God does that in us, and through the Holy Spirit empowers us to live that kind of grace and generosity, we are the ones who put up barriers to that. We are the ones who separate ourselves—some groups more deserving and some less.
To live as graciously and generously as we have been called to do, we need to recognize that there are some people we don’t really want to be gracious toward. We need to be able to admit it. When we actually name those that we really don’t want to be generous to, it doesn’t look very pretty. But the only thing worse is pretending we are generous to all, and keeping resentments in the dark.
So who is it that you find it difficult to be gracious to? For some it’s people who speak Spanish. For some it’s those who flamboyantly gay. For others it’s welfare recipients. For some it’s politicians. For me it’s narrow-minded, judgmental fundamentalists. And TV evangelists. And ambulance-chasing attorneys. And white collar criminals. And bullies. And . .
We all have them, right? But God loves those very people, is gracious to those very people, is generous to those very people, and forgives those very people just as much as those who think they are deserving of love and generosity.
Whoever that person or group of people is for you, have them in mind here as I reread two sentences from this text:
And when [those who worked all day] received [their daily pay], they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But [the landowner] replied to one of them . . . “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?”
The hard thing is that God is generous to people we don’t think deserve it. The good news is that God is generous to you.