Few — if any of us — can read Mt. 20:1-16 without feeling – “well that isn’t fair!”
Those who worked for one hour in the vineyard were paid the same wage as those who worked all day long. Those who labored and sweated through the heat of the day were going to be paid the same thing as those who had — done what all day long? — come in as the day was winding down!!
But — just what is fair? What does it mean to be fair? Was does to be “treated fairly” actually mean?
Is it fair that I was born into a hard-working, middle-class family with parents who valued education and sacrificed greatly so that I and my siblings would get a quality, Catholic education ———- while others were born into a family who struggled to eat — or where there were problems with alcoholism — and no value of education?
Is it fair that I got a student deferment while in college & then seminary — while others were drafted and went to war in Vietnam?
Is it fair that Puerto Rico got wracked by Hurricane Irma and then hit-directly by Hurricane Maria?
Is it fair that I have an incurable neuro-muscular disease —- and GREAT INSURANCE — while there are others with the same disease who have NO INSURANCE?
Is it fair that some couples cannot get pregnant while many babies are born into poverty with only a mother to raise them?
Is it fair when a mother in her 40’s dies of cancer — leaving two young children and a grieving husband —– while a “scoundrel” lives into his 80’s with few health needs?
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines fair as: marked by impartiality and honesty; free from self-interest, prejudice or favoritism; conforming to the rules.
LIFE is not impartial. LIFE does not seem to follow rules. LIFE is not free of prejudice. AND, GOD IS GOOD.
YET, THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW and the workers in the vineyard is not about fairness —- it is about the generosity of God — a God who sends rain on the good and the bad; a God who allows the sun to shine on the good and the bad.
We worship a God who love all equally —- the unknown woman in the mountains of Peru and the Pope — a God who offers the same mercy to a homeless man in Lake Charles, LA and the Queen of England.
We worry about what we have — self-interest — compared to others. We establish — literally or figuratively — rules that should be followed because we see the immediate.
We celebrate when a friend or family member “comes to Jesus or back to Church” right before they die — and that is great. Because we KNOW THEM — WE LOVE THEM — WE WERE WORRIED ABOUT THEM …. but when we do not know someone — it is not easy to see the fairness of a God who welcomes someone at the last moment.
As Isaiah 55: 6-9 reminds us — our thoughts are not God’s thoughts — and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.
God is so much bigger and magnificent that any government or Church or club. God is more benevolent than the most generous and patient parent on earth. God sees possibility and potential.
Thank goodness God did not allow us to write the rules — and to define what it means to be fair and just — kind and forgiving.