This morning I read Matthew 20:1-16 – the parable about the vineyard owner (grape juice factory for us Baptists) who gave one denarius to those who had worked all day and one denarius to those who had only worked an hour or so. Of course, the guys who had worked all day griped to the owner. The owner’s response? “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (v. 15) In other words, I am the owner; I can do what I want; I thrive on being extra generous to the point of not being fair.
I’ll be honest. The inner leader (I pastor a church) in me gets nervous when I read this. Shouldn’t Jesus put a policy in place so that everyone is treated fairly? Shouldn’t something be set up so that those who work all day can get paid one wage and that wage be appropriated throughout the day according to their hours? I mean, what if word gets out in town? If He kept operating like this He would only have guys show up to work at the last hour – expecting to get paid for a full day’s work!!!! His reputation for how He operates would get out fast and potentially disrupt everything!!!! Jesus, for crying out loud – institute a policy!!!!!
It’s good to remember who spoke this parable, though. God. About His kingdom and how things roll with Him. He didn’t care how His generosity affected business. In fact, I would venture to say that His generosity improved His business. If His reputation DID get out about how He operated, I have a pretty good feeling He would rather be known as an overly “YOU ARE CRAZY GENEROUS” than a policy-stricken scrooge.
The lesson for us church peeps? Perhaps instead of trying to be so ‘fair’ all the time, maybe it would serve us well to chunk some of our ‘if-we-don’t-put-a-policy-in-place-word-will-get-out-and-things-might-get-too-crazy-scary-and-messy’ mentalities and embrace a policy of ‘amazing grace.’ That has a sweet sound doesn’t it (anybody catch that?)?
Think about it: what are churches (especially Southern Baptist churches) most known for? Policies to try to keep everything ‘fair’ or for throwing out fair for the sake of being lavish with grace and generosity? I’m not saying we need to chunk all policies. I understand the other side of this argument too. But if you really think about it, when was Jesus ever fair? He chose 12. He had an inner circle of 3. He ‘beloved’ 1. He often only healed some who were present, not all. Every now and then, He would walk through an area and only heal 1. He was rarely ever fair. He was much better than that. His reputation was one of lavish grace that just didn’t make sense. Where is that in churches? Where is that in our church?
I pray we are known more for our ‘doesn’t-make-sense’ grace and generosity than our policies.
Who’s with me?