WE DESERVE WHAT WE GET
My sister is six years younger than I am, and she always wanted to have things just like her big sister had. This put my parents in a dilemma, because what a 12-year-old and a six-year-old want and can use isn’t very often the same. They tried to get us things that were similar enough to satisfy my sister, but different enough that I got something right for my age.
Sadly, this wasn’t always satisfactory for either one of us. My sister is no fool, and usually she could see that what she got wasn’t as “grown up” as what I got. On the other hand—although I never once said anything—I couldn’t see why she got, say, a watch when she was seven, when I had had to wait until I was 13! Even though she got a little-kid watch, and I got a young-lady watch, something about this situation always seemed a little off to me.
Jesus presents a similar situation in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). You know the story. The landowner goes early in the morning and hires workers for a dollar for the whole day. He goes out again at nine, at noon, at three, and at five, each time hiring them for the rest of the day.
At the end of the day, everyone lines up to be paid: last in, first out. At first, the workers who have been there all day are probably surprised that the five-o’clockers got the same dollar that they themselves had been promised. Do you suppose they were getting a little puzzled when the nine-o’clockers still got one dollar? Surely, they thought, we who have been here all day deserve more than that!
When they also got a dollar, they said out loud what I had always been thinking: “Wait a minute! We’ve been around a lot longer than they have! Why should they get what we’re getting?” Meantime, I’m pretty sure the five-o’clockers were thinking, “Those lucky men didn’t have to worry all day long about whether their kids would eat tonight. They didn’t have to stand around in the marketplace looking worthless in front of everybody. But do I get anything extra for my worry and embarrassment? Noooo.”
The landowner tells them all, “I can do what I want with my own money. Why would you be jealous because I am generous?”
An Advent Prayer:
Dear Lord, we expect to get some presents this Christmas. As we open each one and compare it with what others have received—or with what we gave to the giver!—remind us that each gift is a celebration of your generosity toward us. Wash away our petty jealousy with the overflowing love of Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
-- Regina Hunter