Parents have heard that phrase from their children, for a long time. I know I have!
Its not fair. It’s the cry of one who feels wronged. That someone else got something they didn’t deserve or that they should also get something, it should all be equal! We may laugh as adults at how children can react but we adults do it too.
Its not fair. He got the promotion and I didn’t; its not fair I am sick and so many are healthy, my neighbor has power and I don’t. Even our history speaks of those moments.
Consider the Israelites. Moses had helped them escape from Egypt. Believe in God of your ancestors, follow me. He said and they did. Now they are in the wilderness. Are they grateful? Well they were but the harsh reality of being away from the civilization they knew makes them regret the decision.
“You have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."Its not fair, in Egypt we had it all, but here we have nothing. Now Moses could have pointed out that they were enslaved in Egypt and reminded them of the horrific conditions that existed for these now liberated people. What did God do? Set them straight? No, what God did was give them meat and bread, quail and manna. Out of the abundance of God’s love, God gives them food to eat in the wilderness. When they wonder about who did this, Moses tells them,
"It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat."It is God’s abundant love that sets his people free, a freedom from the scarcity that entrapped them and instead to see the love of God abundant for them, & God feeds them. Likewise, in the parable Jesus tells in the Gospel for today, it is about God feeding his people grace. The parable tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner…
Its time to harvest the grapes, so the landowner hires workers early in the morning, but he doesn’t stop there he goes out again and again and again. Each time hiring those who are standing idle, who haven’t been hired, and he tells them they will get paid whatever is right. When evening comes, all those hired get paid, those hired last were paid first, and given the daily wage. Those who worked all day must have expected more, but when it came there turn, they also received the daily wage. So no matter if they worked all day or if they worked 1 hour, they all got the same pay.
It’s not fair. Many of the laborers cried out! We worked harder than anyone else, why should those who didn’t work as long earn the same as us? That’s no way to run a vineyard! And the landowner replies,
This is a parable about the kingdom of heaven; and there God’s generosity and abundance knows no bounds. The parable speaks to the open invitation to God’s kingdom, an invitation to all, first or last, we all receive the same pay, the same salvation, we are free. Such generosity is not earned because of working all day, it is a gift from God, it is grace, it fed the Israelites in the wilderness and it feeds God’s people now. We can reject it or accept it and live. So what does that mean for us today? Let me tell you an Arabian folk tale:
“Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
It’s not fair! How could God care for a disabled fox and not a human being? And yet the voice of God keeps coming back to us, a voice that speaks of God's generous and abundant love and grace for us. Much like the generosity of the landowner, and the care of that tiger for the fox, the call to discipleship demands that, like the tiger & landowner, we seek to embody such abundance in our lives. It isn’t about fairness.
A man walking through the forest saw a fox that had lost its legs. He wondered how the poor animal could survive. Then he saw a tiger come into the clearing with game in its mouth. The tiger ate its fill and then left the rest of the meat for the fox. The next day God fed the fox by means of the same tiger. The man began to wonder at God's great goodness and said to himself, "I too shall just rest here in full trust in the Lord that he will provide me with what I need." The man remained in the forest for several days. But nothing happened. The poor man was almost at death's door with hunger when he heard a voice: "Oh, you poor fool. Open your eyes to the truth. Stop imitating the disabled fox and, instead, follow the example of the tiger." [From The Song of the Bird by Anthony deMello, S.J.]
It is about a God who so abundantly loved us, that he sent his only Son to help us be free. A God who continues to feed us here at this altar and invites us, begs us, pushes us by the Holy Spirit to bring that love and grace that we feel here out into a world that shouts out “It’s not fair!” May we open our hearts to the wisdom that God offers us today, so that without concern for the cost of discipleship or the reward of our labors, we may grasp the honor of working in God’s vineyard at whatever time we arrive. Amen.