The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
Matthew 10:14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
To me the thing that reveals most clearly of all the unique meaning of the word God, applied to our Christian God (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) as presented through the Bible, is the verse above. Let me explain. It tells me why the person whom the Bible talks about all the way through is called Lord or God, and not, let's say, a super-heroe, or a very-cool-and-powerful-but-invisible person. It tells me essentially about the job of being God. I pick the word job precisely because that's the role He plays in most parables: the Boss. Now, follow me here. I like this parable very much, and I am not very keen on parables: I like to be explained things clearly, and have little or no patience for beating around-the-bush tactics, so parables aren't exactly my best loved part of the bible. But this particular one is. You may see the power of God when Jesus commands the storm in the sea to stop and it stops; you may marvel at his powers to give back life to people who are dead, or to cure all kinds of illnesses, even from the distance, or by the touch of his garment and through faith. You will surely be amazed at all the things God does by His command/Word in the Old and in the New Testament. Those things speak wonderfully of God to me as well as to you. But I like to think about God in one more way, a little less spectacular. I don't see His interventions only as show of force, some kind of miracle maker for the masses to watch and marvel at. People are not His public. And we are not puppets either. Now, if you see God as the boss who hired some men to work on His fields (Matthew 20) and paid those who worked just one hour -because they were hired at the 11th hour- just the same as those who worked 12 hours, and you listen to his reasoning, which is perfectly just, even though it may not seem so, that is the marvel to me. His fairness. The capacity to see the whole picture when we only can see our individual little part in the play. Who but God can be fair to ALL persons? We say that so-and-so is a fair person, he does justly. To some it may not seem fair that a person who worked one hour should earn the same as one who worked twelve. But there's more to the eye than that. The boss gave to all exactly what he promised to give, not less. He just wanted to give that person more than seemed fair, not the other person less. Obviously the person who -in the parable- complained did not think that he was being treated fairly. But feelings are just feelings, they are not a matter that has anything to do with justice. And I particulary cherish this thing about God. He is saying, “what's your problem? I'm the boss. I do you no wrong. It's you who's got a problem. I can do with my money as I like.” Now, don't at least half of the world see God as this kind of “unfair” man? We many times don't see the fairness that God sees. If I had worked 12 hours and received the same as another guy who worked only one, I probably wouldn't like it, either. But would I complain? I was given exactly what I was promised. But there's the test. Probably it's in the complaining where we are showing that we really don't deserve more. If God knew we wouldn't complain, the story -perhaps- would have been different. But the wonderful thing is God is always right and fair, even when it does not seem so, because He knows you and your circumstances as well as your neighbor's. Sometimes it takes time to find out, because we don't want to interpret that seemingly injustice on us as a fault of our own:
v.15: "Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?"
But Matthew 10:14 speaks of wonderful things to me: I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. My Boss not only is the Boss, He is fair always, especially when it doesn't seem so to me, because when that happens, then the fault is mine and I should be checking myself.
And, obviously, He is no politician, because he doesn't look for a compromise. He is fair and wise through and through. Let's keep working for Him.
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer.” (v.2)
Of all these words the most important one is my. Those persons who mean every word but that one, are missing the most important and sine qua non of all.
“(...) They cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman to determine the day and the month [when they would destroy all the Jews], until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.”
This is the irrefutable proof that God -unlike Einstein said- does play dice.
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“Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praises on the harp to our God, Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains. He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens that cry. He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.”
Isn't it comforting to know how special we, people, are to God? God takes care of everything, since everything that is was made by Him, and nothing is that wasn't. He made the grass green, the wide sky blue, He wrote the laws of nature that scientists took years and years to crack. He laid out everything beautifully so that we would dwell and amaze in His creation. So much care He took that not one leave falls from a tree without His knowing. All creation bows to Him, respects Him. Cows graze peacefully on the fields, lions roar majestically on the African plains, and monkeys play games on the trees like they've been doing since their creation. Nothing has changed. But God wanted something more: He put man into this picture, and made him different from everything He had created before (that's evolution: God creating things one after another). Could it be that only man, out of all created life on earth, was meant to remain uninfluenced by God's vigilant eye? Are we an accident in God's plan? Which one is our 'place under the sun'?, what have we been placed here for? The evolutionist would say, 'why did you pick on me, Evolution, why not the rat, or the fish, or my cousin the chimp?'
What has man created that wasn't created before? What has man's science discovered that God did not know? We look inwardly and we find atoms (adams?); we look beyond the stars and we find infiniteness; and the larger the universe seems to be -with no more life like ourselves to meet, the smaller we realize ourselves to be: tiny beings, stranded on a planet, in a corner of the universe.
We look up and down, far and near, and we find nothing but ourselves. We are unique in the universe, it seems. What a lucky chance! Or is it chance? Of the millions and millions of living creatures on earth, why are we different? Why can't we be satisfied like the rest of animals? Why so many nations, religions, ideals, and what for? Of all animals why us? God's Word says: “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” Therein lies the answer, for there is no other answer that man has found beyond 'lucky chance'.
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Of dog and man
If I want a friend of mine to look in a particular direction, I will point to that particular direction, and he almost surely will look there. However, if I do the same with a dog, the dog will most surely lick my finger. This is the reliable test that permits us to differentiate between who is made in the image of God, and what is not made in the image of God. In many facets of our lives we come to dilemmas like this one, but within the human race alone.
The illustration of the dog and its owner, I think, draws a fine parallel with that of God's Intercessor and man. An interesting quote about dogs is that in the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 15:26, “It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs.”, or Matthew 7:6, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs”. The “dogs” among humans, are those who being able to see, do not see, and being able to hear, do not hear, nor do they understand (Matth. 13:13).
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“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Vernon McGee tells the beautiful story of the late Dr. MacKay, a Scottish preacher, who used the following experiment to show one young man in London what it is meant by 'trusting God' and 'being saved'. He explained to him while walking together to the train station, but the boy still didn't understand. So Dr. MacKay told him to read this verse, and said: “When you come to the first 'all' you bend down low and go right in there. Then, when you get to the last 'all' stand up straight and you will come out right.” The lad did it and then told the preacher: “I know now that Jesus is my Savior and I have trusted Him.”
It is amazing how different folk take different approaches to understanding the Bible. The bottom-line is, though, the Bible doesn't speak to the 'brainy' side of us, or at least not only. And that's for sure a blessing and a show of his mercy and grace. I met I curious type one day who popped into our church just looking for a philosophical debate at the end of the service. His idea was that Heaven is only for those who could understand the elevated concepts, the intricate mysteries encrypted into the old texts. No mention of God's love, mercy, or of Jesus' death and resurrection. When I asked him straight away about the people who weren't intelligent enough, he played deaf. It takes different ways to understanding, and some parts may be hard and others may easily click. But those like Dr. MacKay's London friend will never drop course because, as we know, Salvation is free. You only need to ask for it. Therefore pride must go.
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“And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.”
It is a good reminder to those who invoke his name too familiarly to read this verse, and get a glimpse of the real Jesus that we will meet when our silly lives on earth be terminated and we are summoned to His awe-inspiring presence. Let's be reminded that He is God Himself, and we are very little and very proud and arrogant beings. But God will not mock at us when we fall to His feet, and will not remind us of our lack of love for Him while on Earth. He will no doubt tell us -like He did to John: do not be afraid.
And we will remember -if at all- our past lives as a time spent mostly irresponsibly and carelessly of the things we ought to have cared for. How worthless our earthly lives will seem in His presence, the very first day of our eternal lives.
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