"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Monday, July 16, 2018

"The last will be first and the first last."--Matthew 20:16

The man being interviewed in the radio story said he was the pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Galax, Virginia.  He said he was against "illegal" immigrants because he and the people he knew had worked hard to get to America, and it wasn't right to let other people enjoy more easily the privileges he had earned.

He also said he was torn, because some people he knew, people he called "family" in the largest sense of the word, were not strictly legal in their presence in this country.  Nonetheless, he made me think of this parable:

For heaven's imperial rule is like a proprietor who went out the first thing in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the workers for a silver coin a day he sent them into the vineyard.

And coming out around 9 a.m. he saw others loitering in the marketplace, and he said to them 'You go into the vineyard too, and I'll pay you whatever is fair.'  So they went.

Around noon he went out again, and at 3 p.m., and repeated the process.  About 5 p.m. he went out and found others loitering about and says to them, 'Why did you stand here idle the whole day?'

They reply, 'Because no one hired us.'

He tells them, 'You go into the vineyard as well.'

When evening came the owner of the vineyard tells his foreman:  'Call the workers and pay them their wages starting with those hired last and ending with those hired first.'

Those hired at 5 p.m. came up and received a silver coin each.  Those hired first approached thinking they would receive more.  But they also got a silver coin apiece.  They took it and began to grumble against the proprietor.  'These guys hired last worked only an hour but you have made them equal to us who did most of the work during the heat of the day.'

In response he said to one of them, 'Look, pal, did I wrong you?  You did agree with me for a silver coin, didn't you?  Take your wage and get out!  I intend to treat the one hired last the same way I treat you.  Is there some law forbidding me to do with my money as I please?  Or is your eye filled with envy because I am generous?'  (Matthew 20:1-15, SV)

It's the last line that's the lesson; well, part of the lesson.  I love the parables.  They don't comfort us.  They challenge us.  We are too prone to be comfortable; we are better off challenged.


Blogger The Thought Criminal said...

I wonder, was he Cuban, the ones who just had to get here to be legal?

I love that parable, it's so counterintuitive to the Anglo-American sense of right, even justice. And because it sets up an economy of life and generosity instead of an economy of transaction.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

I think I'm gonna go back through all the parables, and write some commentaries on them.

Might as well; not doing anything else worthwhile at the moment.

6:31 PM  
Blogger rustypickup said...

The best sermon I have heard on this parable pointed out that these workers were the ancient version of day laborers. It they didn't earn, they and their families didn't eat. We have our version of justice how much did you work, and there is god's justice, what do the workers need. It went on from to speak more of justice and fairness. I have come to think of it as the living wage sermon, that is god's justice not the one we create.

I meant to put this in a comment a few weeks ago but forgot until this post title reminded me. It was the 4th of July post from the ELCA about our meaning of freedom and god's meaning of freedom. One is freedom from, the other is freedom to do (be a servant to all).

8:38 PM  

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