Archive for category Compassion/Mercy
Parables are comparisons in which spiritual truth is pictured in vivid terms (Blomberg 1990). “Jesus’ invitation to enter his Kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching (Cf. Mk 4:33-34).
The Parable that was just read is commonly known as the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Mark Bailey calls this parable, “A day on the job in the kingdom of God.” (because the work takes place throughout the day and the payroll is at the end of the day.)
The parable emphasizes the times that the laborers were hired. The Landowner hired laborers early in the morning (6:00) and made an agreement with them to pay them a denarius for the day’s work. It says the owner agreed which makes me think the workers asked for the denarius and he agreed to it.
The Landowner went out again at 9:00, 12:00, 3:00 and 5:00 and asked others if they would like to come to work without indicating what they would earn, only that he would be fair (vs. 4). If the first guy is going to get 1 denarius for 12 hours work, what do you expect the 2nd group to get? 3/4, then 1/2 then 1/4 and then 1/12th respectively.
At the end of the day, the Landowner went to pay them and started with the last group. He gave them each 1 denarius. What do you expect the next group to get? Three denarii. The next group six, and the next nine and the first group that was hired expects to get 12 denarii. But he gave everyone the same amount – one denarius – regardless of whether they had worked one hour or twelve hours.
It is not surprising therefore, that those were hired first complained and accused the owner of being unfair.
But the owner justifies his actions:
- on the basis of agreement – they agreed to work for a denarius. The owner calls him “friend” which in Matt is not a term of endearment.
- on the basis of ownership – can I do what I want with what is mine?
- on the basis of generosity – can I be gracious to whom I want to be gracious?
Again, is the landowner unjust or unfair? Certainly not. The landowner is just when he paid them all individually with the same amount or salary because that was the thing agreed upon by the landowner and the labourers. The landowner is generous, compassionate and merciful when he paid them all individually with the same amount regardless of of whether they had worked one hour or twelve hours. Simply stated, the landowner is not unjust. Rather he is both just and gracious or compassionate or merciful.
This is the message and the challenge for all of us who are adopted children of God: to be just yet gracious, merciful and compassionate. “Mercy without justice is baloney. Justice without mercy is tyranny.”
“Grace and mercy are both expressions of God’s love, grace to the guilty and undeserving, mercy to the needy and helpless” (John Stott, The Letters of John). Let us, therefore, be merciful as Jesus is merciful (Lk 6:36) for “whoever acts without mercy will be judged without mercy” (James 2:13).May we have mercy on all, especially to those who are going through a time when they are given little or no mercy.
Prayer: Father, may I love those considered unlovable.
“It is hard for us today to imagine the awful condition of the leper in New Testament times. He was considered legally dead. But, worse, he was considered morally unclean. Forbidden to enter any walled city—lashed thirty-nine times if he did—he wandered, muffled to the eyes, crying ‘Unclean!’
“Under Jewish law, no one could greet him. Under the law, no one could approach within six feet of the leper—one hundred feet if the wind came from his direction. Any building he entered was considered defiled and had to be purified. The common practice was to throw stones at or run and hide from any leper who approached.
“Such was the man who came to Jesus. What compassion and greatness he must have sensed in the Master to break the law in this manner. And what was the response? Against all law and tradition, Jesus reached out and touched the leper and by His touch cleansed him of his filthiness. By His touch, to save His brother, Jesus descended lower than any man—exactly as He did, later, to save each of us.
“We are that leper, each of us unclean in his own way, each of us crying, ‘If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.’ Each of us trusts that because of His infinite love, we will receive His touch.” (William B. Smart, Messages for a Happier Life: Inspiring Essays from the Church News [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 136.)
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Reflection: Be made clean. The Jews consider leprosy as a curse from God, a punishment for serious sins. Lepers are numbered among the living dead. They are social outcasts, an embarrassment to their families and to the community.
The Book of Leviticus prescribes that one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, “Unclean, unclean!” He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp (Lv 13:45-46). Lepers are forbidden to enter the city or the Temple. No one is to speak or mingle with them. Anyone who touches a leper is considered unclean and impure, prohibited from participating in any Temple sacrifice and worship.
Jesus does exactly the opposite: he interacts with a leper. He stretches out his hand, touches the leper, and speaks with him. His actions show his compassion and love for the leper. Jesus heals the leper so he may be reinstated into the community and restored in his dignity as a child of God.
What Jesus sees in us are not our mistakes, failures, or sins but our contrition and desire to be healed and made whole. Jesus wants that our hearts be cleansed from bitterness, our eyes from malice, our minds from revenge, our lips from lies, our hands from hurting, and our lives from selfishness and slavery to sin. Jesus is telling us now, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
Sympathy is not enough; compassion is expressed in good deeds.