Archive for category Generosity

Matthew 20 :1-16 The Workers in the Vineyard

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.

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John 12:1-17 The anointing at Bethany

As Jesus made His way towards Jerusalem where death awaits him, He stopped in the village of Bethany where He was invited to dinner party by a wealthy friend named Simon. In the course of the gathering, a woman interrupted the meal which shocked all those who were present.

What scandalized them? First, they were shocked because the woman who came to Jesus   loosened her hair in public. During that time, to loosen one’s hair in public even for a married woman, was a sign of grave immodesty. Second, they were shocked because the woman wasted lot of money when she anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment. When Mary anointed Jesus with an oil worth a whole year’s wages, Judas protested that the perfume could have been sold. It would have brought three hundred silver pieces (he’ll betray Jesus for just thirty), and then the money could have been given to the poor. Jesus, however, fully aware that he is a traitor, unconcerned about the poor,  and a thief.

The contrast between Judas and Mary of Bethany is powerful. Mary spent what she had on “very costly ointment” in a gesture of love, affection, and respect. While Judas complained for losing the money that does not belong to him in the guise of being concern for the poor.

How did Jesus react to that given situation? Jesus defended what the woman did for him out of gratitude and thanksgiving and then used that occasion to teach them about the virtue of hospitality and his imminent passion and death in the hands of the scribes and the pharisees who will deliver him to the pagans to be mocked, crucified and be killed.

For Jesus hospitality is more than just welcoming a guest into one’s house. It is more than just serving a guest with food and drink. For Jesus, hospitality is, above all, welcoming someone what he stands for or represents. This is the reason why he praised what Mary did to him than Martha who prepared everything for their meal when he visited their home once. On that ocassion Mary both as a friend and a disciple welcomed Jesus and what he stands for and represents.

Today is Monday of the Holy Week. On this day,  let us reflect on the prophetic anointing of Jesus by a woman named Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus who were close friends of Jesus), which foreshadowed Jesus’ imminent death, honored Him as God’s anointed, and poured out to Him love and devotion too deep for words. Her action reminds us that our journey through Holy Week is a matter of the heart.

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