April 25, 2016: God is not always fair

Posted on : Apr 21st, 2016 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

This week I was talking with a colleague about the complex dynamics of deportation and the conflicting opinions about immigration reform.

It is estimated that we have about 11 million people who have immigrated to the United States without legal documentation. Many of those people have lived here for years. And many of those families came with their children who were born in other countries and then gave birth to children here in the United States. They are literally bi-national families – split between two nationalities. Most of the anti-immigrant sentiment seems to be focused on Mexicans immigrating to the US. In reality, we have a huge number of immigrants from Asia and even Europe who are here without legal status.

The Obama administration is caught in a bind right now trying to decide if undocumented family members should be deported. There are literally thousands of families where part of a family is being held in detention and facing deportation and the other members of the family are US citizens, either by birth or naturalization. There are even married couples where one person is being held in detention and the other is a US citizen.

Morally and spiritually this is a mess. A horrible mess. The choice is to either break up families or to create the exact same situation in another country that we are facing here. That is, the American citizen members of these families would become undocumented persons in the country to which they are deported.

So, as people of faith, what should we do? Take a moment and read the scripture below. It’s a similar story only about what we today would call “day workers.” But instead of day workers think of this story as if it were about those being held in deportation centers and the issue of splitting up families by nationality. The more relevant the story, the more angst it produces.

This story is included in the gospels because the authors want us to know one thing: God is not always fair; but God is always Just. Not only that, but that we who live in God’s realm have to get used to the fact that life is not always fair, and living in the tension of that unfairness, we, as God’s people, are called to be Just. That is a tough spiritual struggle for all of us.

When you get right down to the truth of the matter, there will be times in our lives when we receive God’s grace and others will think that what we have received is unfair; and there will be times when others will receive God’s grace and we will think what they have received is unfair. In those moments, we need to recall this Gospel story and rejoice in the good news that God is not always fair; but God is always Just. This prayer sums it up beautifully:

God of overflowing grace, help us.

When we think we are worthless, remind us of our value.

When we think others are worthless, remind us of their value.

God of overflowing grace, help us.

Help us accept each person’s worth and not judge others by their work or their wealth.

Help us to remember that you love the first and the last and all those in between.

God of overflowing grace, help us.

Help us to share the riches of your world with one another, freely and fairly.

We pray in Jesus’ spirit. Amen.

Blessings to You as we seek to become more spiritually alive in this season of Easter,


 ~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Matthew 20:1-16

A Story About Workers

From The Message (the Bible in contemporary language)

God’s kindom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.

Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went.

He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, ‘Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?’

They said, ‘Because no one hired us.’

He told them to go to work in his vineyard.

When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his supervisors to ‘Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.’

Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the estate manager, ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’

The manager replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’

Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Leave a Reply