Keeping Score

Jesus told a parable about vineyard laborers (1) who were mad about getting paid the amount they had agreed to—you heard me right: they were mad about getting paid the amount they had agreed to 😦—and one point to the story is this: 1) Stop comparing what you have with what others have. But there is more.

Let’s face it: we love when God is generous towards us, but when he is generous towards others—especially those who we feel do not deserve it—we are sometimes envious, angry, and a little peeved! As others prosper, as others receive more than we do, as others seem to get all the breaks—we secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) pose the question: What about me?

And according to the parable, God answers our question with a couple of questions of his own:  1) “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” and 2) “Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (2)

Hmm. 🤔  And ouch! 😟 The bottom line is this: God is in charge—and thank God for that! But we often disagree with how God runs things, don’t we? I mean, if the pay is the same for working 1 hour or for working 11 hours, what’s the point of working 11 hours? It’s a good question. After all, shouldn’t we be rewarded for working longer and harder than others?

And here is my answer: What God asks us to do is what we need to do. What God asks others to do is not our concern. We are, in effect, to “mind our own business,” as Paul so eloquently writes in his letter to the Thessalonians (3). Jesus said basically the same thing to Peter. After his resurrection, Jesus had a great reunion with Peter and then told him, “Follow me.” (4) And Peter looked back and saw John . . . and asked Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” (5) And Jesus said to him, “What is that to you?” (6) Which I interpret as mind your own business! So, I call that point #2.

But also, think about this. The laborers in the vineyard believed that doing more work meant more money and probably more recognition. And that’s where we seem to get stuck, because actually God’s question is the same for all of us: “Do you want to work for me?” And according to the parable the reward for working for him is the same for everyone. That’s point #3.

However, a most important point is still looming. Prior to Jesus sharing this parable, the disciples had asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (7) To which Jesus replied, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (8) And shortly after that Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a person.  To which Jesus replied, “seventy-seven times” (9). Which led Jesus into the parable about forgiveness which reveals that God will forgive us in the same way we forgive others. Which was followed by the scene where the rich young man asked what he had to do to have eternal life. To which Jesus answered, “Keep the commandments and sell everything,” which the man could not do—which was Jesus’ point. He was in effect saying, “There is nothing you can do.”

Let’s pause there. 🤔 Do you see the pattern? We humans are obsessed with measuring things:  how to be great, how many times to forgive people, what things we can do to earn God’s love. We love to keep score. God does not keep score. God is generous towards all.  That’s point #4.

And a good place to stop . . .  and consider why I felt compelled to number my points. 🤪

1) Matthew 20:1-16     2) Matthew 20:15      3) 1 Thessalonians 4:11      4) John 21:19      5) John 21:21      6) John 21:22     7) Matthew 18:1      8) Matthew 18:4     9) Matthew 18:22

1 Comments on “Keeping Score”

  1. This brings to mind the story that Elisabeth Elliot relates on the very last page of her book “These Strange Ashes”. The book is a factual account of her missionary work (before she married Jim Elliot) and the story on the last page is probably a fictional story (I think), but it is a good reminder to all believers that our work is done for Jesus. Period.

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