You know them. Maybe you know a lot of them. Homes paid off in their thirties. Kids with Ivy League scholarships. Jobs that always lead to promotions and better jobs. Loved at church. Loved by the world. When they lose someone, it’s an ancient great-aunt (who left a huge inheritance), never a spouse or child or sibling.
They’re charmed. It feels like they won a cosmic lottery. And these people are so, so hard to deal with. It’s that season on Facebook when people post their graduating seniors and point out how perfect they are–their lives, dreams, ambitions, scholarships–and another charmed generation goes forth. Or they show photos of their new dream houses or dream cars, because this is the time of year people move and change, here at the beginning of summer. And I struggle. I am not a charmed person.
Matthew 20 is a parable about workers who are paid a day’s wage. Some work all day, and some work only an hour, but all receive the same wage. Those who worked all day felt this was unfair. Personally, I struggle with this parable. At the end, the landowner says “Are you jealous because I am generous?” And I find myself, with much shame, saying Yes. I get jealous when God is generous. It feels unfair.
I tell myself that the charmed people will one day be tried by fire, but that might not be true. I know charmed people whose lives felt charmed to the very end. I ask myself if God loves them more. Maybe he loves them less. Maybe I’m special because I can’t eat food and buried my brother and live in a house that’s falling down around me. But maybe I’m not special for those very same reasons.
I realize this is a ridiculous post. God loves people in India who survive by living in trash yards. I have been given so much more than that. God loves people in China who are imprisoned for their faith. I have struggled so much less than that. I am charmed, too, because that silly phrase always indicates a comparison, and I will always come up a winner over many people. And a loser to others. There’s a reason we’re not supposed to compare. I am ashamed that I do.
The Matthew passage points out that the wages are equal. In truth, compared to the laborer who is in prison or martyred, I deserve very little in the way of wages, but I will receive Heaven as much as that person. And yet, I struggle to turn that around and be happy that some will get that reward with less struggle than I’ve endured. It is shameful. And yet I continue to struggle.
In Romans Paul tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Sometimes it’s easier to weep than rejoice. And it’s especially hard to rejoice with those who rejoice if my circumstances currently have me weeping.
I have four kids. I love them all. I have more than enough space in my heart for four kids. Sometimes I don’t have enough time or resources to give everyone I love equal treatment, but love–yes. I can love a whole lot of people at once.
And so can God. I don’t know why I forget that. He isn’t playing favorites. He can love all his children at once. Unlike me, He also has the resources and time to love them all well. Nobody is forgotten. Nobody is left out. And the fact that the plan is different for me than for anyone else–? It’s his plan. His special plan just for me. And the reward is good.
In school, I remember being told to keep my eyes on my own paper. I have to remember that in life, too. When it comes to obeying God and earning my wages (and take that as I mean it, simply doing what I’m called to do for God, not actually earning his favor), I need to do what I’m called to do. And my wages are amazing. Life everlasting. Peace. Joy. Fulfillment. To be fed, to be loved, to be whole. What else could I possibly want?
Lord, when you have to whisper to me–again!–that question, Are you jealous because I am generous? I want to say no and mean it. I’m not there yet. Remind me that I am loved enough. That I was not made on an assembly line where I can compare myself to others. I am original, as are all those around me, and I have a unique story, written by you, that only I can live out to delight you. And then, fill my heart with love for all those with their own stories.
I don’t want to be jealous because He is generous. If He weren’t generous, I wouldn’t have any reward coming to me at all. This is about Him, not me, and this is about His sacrifice for me that makes my worst days look like a parade. It’s time for me to look to my own job, my own duties, and delight in my own wages, without acting like an insecure child who fears her dad doesn’t love her like he loves the rest.