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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox


(Jesus said to the disciples) “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘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.” ~ Matthew 20:1-16

If you follow the news, this parable is playing out before our eyes.

Should debt relief be given to those students coming out of college with huge financial burdens?

Should that happen when I didn't get debt relief?

When I worked my fingers to the bone paying off loans after keeping my nose to the grindstone to graduate?

Should that happen when my kid didn't get debt relief?

There's a lot to parse out in the parable, and our innate human desire for fairness bumps up right against it. It just doesn't seem fair.

But at the heart of Jesus' message here is God's desire for justice for all God's people. Justice not as in punishment, but justice as in making right. And making right by relationship - that we should not just live in right relationship to God, but with each other. And with all of God's creation.

Justice means that every person be treated with the same respect, regardless of life circumstances, background, class, race, gender, ethnicity, or any other social category we can come up with.

God's justice might not seem fair sometimes to us. It might not seem fair that some get debt relief and some don't.

It might not seem fair that people get the same wage no matter how long they've been working.

But God's justice is ultimately about fairness. God's fairness. A fairness that means that sometimes those who have less need a special break so that they can been on a more level playing field.

"God helps those that help themselves" isn't anywhere in scripture. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

For those sitting around, waiting for someone to give them a job, or to free them from an undue financial burden, our generous God says: I'm here.

Oh yeah...and there may just be a time when that overarching, "undeserved" generosity comes our way as well.

Lord, help me to see your justice in your idea of fairness and feel grati

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