2017 09 24 Matthew 20.1-16 Jesus said, “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.”
Reflection The kingdom of heaven includes participants with specific endowments and explicit needs, with vastly differing competencies and disparate resources; laborers and landowners, employed and unemployed. The fact of the matter is, we are not all equal. Life is not fair. Though we may have equal rights, we do not have equal opportunity. Some people are born with superior intellects, others with mental challenges. Some inherit strong bodies or extensive wealth, others are born addicted to drugs and a legacy of poverty. Depending on when and where and to whom we are born we may be undereducated or over privileged, we may be shunned or exalted. Life is not equal. Life is not fair.
Which is why the kingdom of heaven depends on us. The kingdom of heaven depends on us to emulate the landowner in Jesus’ teaching tale and, to look with eyes of compassion and act with generosity toward the full brush of humankind, the ones who show up and work for their living and the ones who can barely shuffle to the outpatient hospital for their meds. As Ken Wilbur succinctly states, “It takes more than simply saying, “We are all one! We make room for everybody! Everybody is welcome…” It takes the interior growth, evolution, and development of each and every person…” *
Most people reading this post can identify with the landowner, endowed with more blessings than we require to provide for ourselves and our family. This means we are free to generously give at least a living wage to those in need of material and physical support, and to urge others to do likewise. This is not purely selfless. As we extend generosity we are cultivating our interior growth, accumulating our spiritual wealth, being more caring, more loving, more generous even when it means breaking the rules and caring for people we don’t think have earned it, even when it means valuing people who do not think or feel or act like us. This is living from the depths of our being, being compassionate. This is spiritual wealth.
The question before each of us is, “Are we willing to grow and evolve to insure that the only lens through which we look and judge each other is compassion?”
*Wilbur, Ken Trump and a Post-Truth World. (2017: Shambala Publications, Boulder, CO) p109.
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