By The Merry Monk
God is not fair, as we understand fair. If He was, everyone would get what they really deserve. Instead, He’s bend-over-backward generous. He even seems to shove His generosity in our faces. Sometimes this divine version of reality seems devoid of common sense. Compared to our methods, the kingdom of God could be called, “Crazy Upside Down Jesus World.”
Here’s what I mean. Let’s say I need some landscaping done, so I go to the local day laborer center and hire anyone standing around. We agree to $100 for a day’s work. After couple hours of hard work, it doesn’t look like we’ll get everything done by quitting time, so I go back to the same place to get more workers. After a couple more hours, I realize those aren’t enough, so I get more. After a couple more hours, my yard begins to look like an ant colony with workers swarming all over pulling bushes, planting trees, laying sod, hauling decorative rocks, building planters, etc. Finally, it looks like we are going to finish by the end of the day, so I run out to get the guys some chicken and beers to show my appreciation. With about an hour of daylight left, I’m returning home with the eats and happen to pass the day laborer center. I’m surprised to see a group of men who are just arriving. What slackers, showing up at the end of the day looking for work probably after partying all night. I wonder if they are even looking for work, or just want to hook up with their friends, who actually did get their butts out of bed. I pull over and ask them why they’re standing around.
They say, “Look man, we’ve been standing here all day and nobody hired us.”
I know they’re full of it, but I have plenty of cash and they look like they could use a break. So, I hire them and we haul back home. After another hour of work, everything is done, so they all line up for their money. Of course, the “slackers” are first in line with beers in hand licking their fingers clean of fried chicken. I hand them each $100 as promised. They’re happy. The same transaction is completed with the next guys, and the next. About now, the last group is thinking they’ll get more since they worked all day. They walk right up to me with their hands out, but they each get $100. They look at me like townspeople ready to attack Frankenstein with shovels and pitchforks.
“Hey, you agreed to $100 for a day’s work,” I reply. “That’s a good wage. If I want to give the last group that came to work the same as I gave you…it’s a free country. Can’t I do what I want with my own money?
Jesus tells a similar story in Matthew 20:1-16. He concludes by saying that in the kingdom of heaven, the last are first and the first are last. What! You’re kidding! That’s not fair! Who would pay good money to guys who don’t deserve it and then shove that fact in the faces of the guys who worked the hardest? That’s only one example of God’s generosity.
There’s also the rebellious son who squanders all his dad’s money on hookers and booze. What does he get when he comes home: new clothes and a party, while his brother works in the field. It seems the religious folks always get a tongue lashing from Jesus while the drunks, outcasts and whores get the kingdom. The meek inherit the earth. The persecuted are blessed. It’s all scandalous!
In the real world, we work, so we get paid. We study hard, so we get an “A.” If we do bad stuff, we get punished. If we do good, we get rewarded. However, God’s ways are certainly not our ways.
So, why does all of this insane kindness go to the worst of us? This may sound strange, but it’s a way of correcting us. Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” Clearly, God isn’t “out to get us” by using cancer or earthquakes, getting us fired, wrecking our cars, or taking away family members. That’s how the pagan gods do it, but not Yahweh.
If He were interested in punishing us for the evil in our hearts, death and destruction would be in order. It seems God did that kind of thing in the Old Testament as He set the stage to receive the punishment humanity deserved. That’s done, so He’s not mad at us anymore. He spent all His anger on Jesus; there’s none left for us. God was never interested in wiping us out, but rather in steering us toward home. He wants us to repent, so He blesses us. If that doesn’t work, He continues to bless—even more. We might say God will bless the hell out of us, if that’s what it takes.
Charles Spurgeon once wrote: “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.”
So, while it’s not what we expect, Jesus continually taught that it’s the way of the kingdom of heaven. Although we can’t work so hard that it puts God in our debt, we also can’t be bad enough to cause Him to punish us—He’s already punished Christ.
Romans 4:4-5 says, “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
This doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for the stupid things we do. We also all live in a fallen world. But we don’t want to confuse that stuff with God’s eternal punishment. There’s no punishment left after the cross, for those who have accepted Christ.
However, He does want to bless the hell out of us. This is obviously great news for the slackers who show up hung over for an hour of work, for they’ll get paid just as much as those who worked all day. It’s great news for the prodigals who return home to a party after spending dad’s money on sinful living. But, for the older brother and the guys working in the field all day, it’s a tough pill to swallow.
It’s doesn’t seem fair, but that’s how the kingdom of heaven works. As He loves us, we become more loving. As He indiscriminately accepts us, we become more indiscriminately accepting. As He blesses us, we become a blessing to others. May God bless the hell out of us all!