Buzzword - Something for nothing
A former Australian Prime Minister is well remembered for the statement attributed to him - "There's no such thing as a free lunch". Well! This may be the way it is with humans; today's readings tell us that it is not necessarily God's way.
Isaiah 55: 6-9: The Prophet makes this point when he wrote "my thoughts are not your thoughts; my ways are not your ways - it is the Lord who speaks". Down through the centuries, various attempts have been made to present God as an avenging judge ready to pounce on the slightest misdemeanour. There can be no doubting divine justice; however, that only comes into play when there has been no effort on our part to respond to the proven generosity of God's love.
Phil: 1:20-24,27: St. Paul is well aware of this. At the time of writing the passage read this morning, he was in prison awaiting judgement; but he is quite at ease. Whatever happens he is reconciled; despite his failures, and. aware of God's generosity, he has no fear of dying because he has made some effort to serve God. Death would be a fulfilment; if, on the other hand, he is freed, he will continue to work for the Lord.
Matthew 20: 1-16: But it is the gospel that hammers home this message of God's generosity. By our standards, His behaviour is not on. I mean - what about 'equal pay for equal work'? Or could this be an early example of workplace agreement? Whatever! The point is that God will never be outstripped in generosity. Good will in any measure will not go unrewarded
Point 1: Most people work hard for what they get; and because they do, they feel resentment at some of the abuses of the country's social welfare system which, probably, is as good as there is. It has been put in place so that the needy and the less privileged members of the community may have minimal protection. It is distressing, then, when one finds such an ideal being abused; particularly if the abuse is by well paid professionals - lawyers, doctors, employers and so on. It would seem that for some "something for nothing is too good to miss"!
Point 2: It has long been fundamental to Christian thinking that 'work is good for the soul'. The parable of the talents comes to mind in which the only person to be reprimanded was the person who did not use the talent given to him. Industry and productivity are foundation stones of our way of life; and the reward for one's ingenuity and industry is measured, for the most part, in terms of moneyand fame. Now, money is important. But is it so important that it justifies a person becoming mean, petty, envious, even dishonest to have it? It would seem, unfortunately, in many instances the answer is "yes"! We are all familiar with the argument that the small difference between junior award rates and social service payments is so fractional that it is not worth working for. Then, on the other hand, extraordinary generosity presents itself in different ways - a gift of life - a stranger donates kidney for successful transplant; another donates $10000 to the local church building fund - and there are many examples of extraordinary generosity recorded on a daily basis; single parent loses all in fire, overwhelmed by offers of help. And so on...
Conclusion: It is this latter behaviour that reflects the lesson of today's reading - to be generous in our attitudes because God is generous. . Another insight, too, is revealed in today's parable, namely, that human nature has not changed dramatically in the intervening years, as we note the petty, envious attitude of the workers concerned, lest one get a little more than the other. It would be exceptional if one did not see a little bit of oneself in that picture.
So that's the challenge! Is it possible for me to bring my ways more into line with God's ways? Be a little more generous in my attitudes? A little less petty? A little less envious?
Scriptural reference: They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed. (Timothy 6:18)