Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
"Mies." My daughter Catherine, who either can't quite say the word "mine" or thinks that something is "mies" just like something is "yours" (add an "s" to the possessive pronoun...or in the case of my, change the y to an i and add es), frequently uses that word to proclaim her desire to take possession of something It usually occurs as Elizabeth, her older sister, battles her for a toy. "Mies!" Catherine will respond, staking her claim for something she considers (or wants) to be hers.
These interactions usually end with Elizabeth laughing, Catherine hitting and me yelling! At times I side with Elizabeth: the toy is actually hers and she shouldn't have to share everything with her younger sister. Typically, however, I'll side with Catherine: she is still so young and has so little and most of what she wants are things that Elizabeth no longer uses or desires (until, of course, Catherine starts to use it!). As the fight intensifies, my heart breaks for Catherine, my impatience with Elizabeth swells and I struggle to figure out any good solution. "People are more important than things" only makes so much headway with toddlers, especially toddlers consumed by an ownership dispute. I try not to play favorites; being the youngest sibling I relate with Catherine's plight. But, Elizabeth shouldn't have to share everything; her little sister gets into all of her stuff - how frustrating (sorry Mary and Joe)!
Jesus commands us to be humble and generous - loving others more than we love ourselves. Jesus challenges us to see all good things as gifts from Him, not as trinkets to which we are entitled or rewards for good behavior or privileged status. When we start to see all that we have as blessings and cherish every good thing as a gift, we can start to see that the thing itself isn't good, but rather it is God who is good who gives it.
When we can see God as the source of all that is good in our lives, we stop worrying about who we think is His favorite and things like jealousy, greed and bitterness fade away. We start to forget about whether or not something is "mine" and we take complete comfort and find total worth in knowing that we are "His".
When we stop worrying about who God's favorite is - who's first - we start to understand that it's actually us. Each of us. All of us.
Made worthy, elevated to the top of the winner's podium, given the highest salary, not for how long we work or how hard or how well (or even our birth order!), but because He loves us.
God doesn't give us what we deserve, He gives us what is just...and thank God for that.
Loving Father, we are unworthy of all that you bestow upon us. Nothing we do can merits Your benevolence. May we see that every good thing comes from You and may we praise and glorify Your precious and most holy Name. Amen.