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Clarity

September 20, 2011

Jesus liked to tell stories.  They were always pretty plain and easy to understand.  He spoke more about money than any other subject, and preachers will tell you it’s because of the power of money over humans, but I think it’s also because he knew that’s what most people around him were worried about day to day.

He told a story about a man who owned a vineyard and hired day laborers to work in it.  He hired a few people in the morning, a few people three hours later, a few people three hours after that, etc. all the way up to an hour before the day was over.  So he hired some people that worked twelve hours, all the way down to a few that only worked one hour.

So he lines them up to pay them, and he gives a day’s wages to the people that worked one hour.  Then he goes down the line, and gives a day’s wages to everyone, including those that worked twelve hours.

So naturally they complain about this, and the owner of the vineyard says, you agreed to work for a day’s wages, just like everyone else.  I wasn’t stingy with you–I was generous with everyone else.

And after he’s finished, Jesus says this: “so the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

 

God says our good deeds are like filthy rags to him.

The imagery is clear: we ourselves are precious and infinitely valuable, we are radiant creatures, and the things we do, and even the attitudes we have, are dim and insignificant by comparison.

That’s pretty key.  God says the fact that he loves us is not due to anything we’ve done or not done.  Which means he won’t suddenly change his opinion of us, and he doesn’t want us comparing ourselves to others in that way.

It makes sense too.  We might have a handful of people in our life that really care about us.  And those people may like certain things about us, we may have things in common, but even if all that suddenly changed, somehow we’re not too worried about it.  Because even though I have dreams and goals and hopes, even though I’ve done and said and thought a lot of things, those things aren’t me, they are just things about me.  Like if I woke up tomorrow and decided to do a complete 180 in life, my mother would still love me, because I’d still be her son.

And that’s how God sees you and me, and everyone else, including the people we don’t like.  And he treats us accordingly.

This has always been a tough lesson for me.  I get pretty envious sometimes, about all sorts of things.  But God’s pretty clear that even the things he gives us aren’t necessarily a reward.  Sometimes God gives things to people because he wants to, and it has nothing to do with me or anyone else.  And he also says that if we really want something, he wants us to ask for it, because he loves to give us things.

 

I heard someone say one time that God invented being happy.  When I get tied up in worrying about the plans I’ve made or the things I want, or being envious of someone else, it only ends up hurting me.  But if he can show us how to be happy apart from those things, then it’s a lot easier to just say, I trust you with this, I am not going to strive and exhaust myself and worry, I know it will turn out the best way.  This is important to keep in mind when this job is about to end and I’m going back to school and the future is so uncertain.  But it will be a great exercise in letting go and trusting that things will turn out all right.

And, hopefully, the last will be first, and the first will be last.

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