"...... a landowner went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them to his vineyard..... He went out again at nine o'clock and noon and three and five. Go out to my vineyard, I will pay you what is right..........When the day was done, those hired about five o'clock came forward and each of them received the usual daily wage. Now, when the first came, they thought they would receive more....." Matt. 20:1-16
The human condition is full of opposites: anger and compassion; greed and generousity; public and private; love and hate; forgiveness and grudges; self-depreciation and grandiousity.
One thing we have a difficult time wrapping our understanding around is how precious we are to God - every one of us. That preciousness has absolutely NOTHING to do with what we do . . . or don't do.
Now, I am not a mind-reader or much of a gambler, but I can bet that this view is not one held in most of our worldly experience. No, in sharp contrast, you are worth (in business terms) what you can produce, how dependable you are producing it and how much more efficiently (and most often this = quickly) you can produce it than someone else. Work hard and you will be financially rewarded ---- Yet, you and I both know of people - many, many deserving people who don't get that promotion or raise! Despite this practical knowledge, we have expectations and assumptions..... all irrational, emotional, unreasonable.
Over and over again some other behavior is very common when someone (other than ourselves, of course) else gets a raise, we take it personally
- and this resentment can become our own worst enemy. We fail to focus on the fact that we are employed, glory in the self-satisfaction of 'a job well done', of helping someone else, in practising a generousity of heart that uplifts the spirit and creates a positive atmosphere. No. Jealousy creeps - or strides in. Our hands contract into fists that are drawn to our hips. Our eyes squint, our mouths take on a sour downturn. Our minds, psyches, hearts become infected and we spend more time watching when others punch the time clock or turn in the report or come back from lunch (and with whom). This tendency, left to its own devises, develops into murmuring, gossip, "sick and tired" days off, office backbiting, stealing ("well, after all, I haven't had a raise since......"), tardiness, preoccupation in undermining the integrity or work of others. Turned inward the fruits are cynicism, depression, backache, headache, etc.
The temptation to allow this bitterness to take a foothold in our lives beyond the office or the courtroom or the stage or the hospital or the grocery store or the construction site is very, very real. Should it take hold, we develop a very unattractive world view: YOU OWE ME.
My spouse owes me, family owes me, the neighbors owe me, the town owes me, the government owes me because......????.....well, because....."I deserve it"
I hope you understand that I've not talking about gross miscarriages of justice. I'm addressing a smallness of character that is rampant these days. This chip on the shoulder outlook is evidenced in self-centeredness, self-promotion and arrogance. It would seem that this mindset is far more widespread in an affluent culture where individuality is paramount.
How would our environment (immediate and extended) be influenced if we focused on 1) our blessings 2) the glass being half full and 3) showing our gratitude for God's mercy and love by treating others with the honor He gives them? The change to that environment is certainly within our power - one person at a time, one day at a time. And what a change that could be!
One way to make that change is to do an examination of conscience - one that takes far longer than a few moments on a Sunday morning. After making that examination, ask one question: What, precisely, DO I deserve? Truth is, we do not often get what, by rights, we "deserve" - and we certainly should thank God for that.
God through Christ promises us a glimpse of justice and pattern for life that has its tune-up here on this side of eternity... and then extends far beyond what we see or hear or understand now. God offers a promise of His love, His care, His presence as payment for what we bring to Him. With grace, we can bring Him praise and joy and a clear conscience and gratitude and selfless service and others to a knowledge of His boundless love.... we might even let them go to the front of the line before the throne!
If we accept His offer, He will be fair. Amen and Amen!