As last week, this reading, Matthew 20:1-16, is featured in the Giving in Grace programme sermon notes and reflections by Dr Jane Williams: http://www.givingingrace.org/userfiles/files/Design/preaching_notes_matthew.pdf http://www.givingingrace.org/userfiles/files/Design/reflections_matthew.pdf )
Beware of claiming your Rights! Why not, you might say – Health and Safety, Discrimination and other laws are meant to protect. Perhaps so, but as a state of mind it can be dangerous. If you begin to think about your relationship to God in terms of rights, it becomes ridiculous!
People are inclined to say they want justice. Believe me, you don’t. To get justice from God would be to be called to account. Are we up to God’s standards – of work, relationship, honesty . . Even one of them? No, not when you consider his standards. “I haven’t done badly” may be true, in comparison with those who did worse (we prefer to look that way) – but this judgement isn’t in comparison with them. It’s in comparison with God, and in that justice we are all guilty. We don’t want justice, we want mercy.
But you still hear it said so often, “Its not fair!”:
- – that I should have to work so hard
- – that I should have to deal with people like that
- – that people should die before they are really old
- – that I should be in the situation I’m in
“Not fair”? You could say it’s not easy, even that you need help to cope. But be very careful. We have some standards to try to limit the human abuse of humans. As far as they are practical they are good, and we may support them. But don’t be mislead into thinking that life is directed by your rights. Your life is not a right, but a gift, to be given as (and as long as) God chooses.
God did not put us on earth to judge other people, but to worship and serve him. We can never know the mind of someone else, or understand their motivation. What we can know, and be responsible for, is that each of us have certain gifts and opportunities to use – or to waste.
Today’s parable (Matthew 20:1-16) talks about the master’s goodness. A Denarius a day was a living wage, so he chooses to give a living wage to those who need to live – and gets complaints! That sounds familiar! Why complain – he had dealt according to his agreement, but jealousy and greed come in. If Jesus chooses to work with people you find difficult – rejoice (he doesn’t find you all that easy!). If he is generous to a fault – don’t complain (we are getting the benefits of his generosity). Sadly, we find complaint easy. We never realise how absurd we are, nor how dangerous is our attitude.
Beware of claiming your rights! With God, your right to a fair trial is a short cut to a guilty verdict. We need, not our rights, but mercy – and we need to show that as well as receive it.