Have you ever argued with God? I did this morning. Usually when I read a verse of Scripture I don’t understand, I move on, thinking it must not apply to me. After all, I must stick with my plan to read the Bible through in a year.
This year, I purposed to take a different approach. To understand the full meaning, I chose to read only a few paragraphs each day. When I’m stumped or challenged, I force myself to prayerfully dig deeper.
Early this morning, I read from Matthew 20 and didn’t like what I read. In Jesus’ attempt to explain the principles of his kingdom, he told the story of a landowner who went out early in the day to find laborers for his vineyard. My mind envisioned a group of Hispanics waiting at the Seven Eleven. Oops!
The man hired those who were available, but later he went back to town around noon and saw a few more workers standing around. My mind saw them as loafers who liked to sleep late. Another Oops!
The employer went to town again around three o’clock and again at five. Each time, he hired those “lazy bums” who were hanging around. By this far into the story, I wondered why the landowner bothered. Oops again!
Then the landowner did the stupidest thing–no matter how many hours they worked, he paid them all the same. “That isn’t fair!” I argued. Yikes!
But like all Scripture, there is an underlying lesson that God wants me to learn. I remembered other incidences that didn’t seem fair. When Jesus hung near death on the cross, he looked to the thief on his right and forgave him. He said, “. . .today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43b NIV)
Also from the cross, Jesus blew my mind when he looked at the soldiers who were killing him and the crowds who had accused him. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NLT) Were it left up to me, I would have used my privileges and brought God’s wrath down upon their heads. Ouch!
Jesus went against the grain of the strict religious teachers of his day. Even his disciples didn’t understand at times. He visited the homes of sinners and tax collectors; he touched lepers and dead people; he turned water into wine and DRANK it; he treated prostitutes with respect, and used a whip to drive away those who were desecrating the temple. The disciples never knew what he might do next. Check, check, check!
But everywhere he went, he was doing good–forgiving, restoring, healing, reconciling the people to God. Every action, every word introduced the disciples to His Kingdom–a kingdom that would not perish–a kingdom that could not be understood without the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
My argument with God over the unfairness of the landowner’s wages, triggered an evaluation of my own heart. Considering the problems we are having in America today, am I judging people based on my own values instead of God’s? What does Jesus think of prejudice, hatred, abuse, judgement? Does what I consider unfair agree with the principles of God’s Kingdom? Oh my! Could you make this less painful, Lord?
God forgive me for not seeing each person as you see them–for not hearing your voice as you call me to extend love, mercy and forgiveness. Cleanse my mind of all negative thoughts toward others. “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”