"One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me." It's only fair! For many, these were the first words used to define "fairness" while growing up. As sophisticated adults we have adapted our language but oftentimes continue to determine our sense of worth by adding up what we have and paying careful attention to what others are getting.
In Matthew 24:1-16 we see that the owner of a vineyard saw fit to pay all his workers the same wage, even though some had worked longer than others. For those who had been laboring all day this was interpreted as an injustice; it simply wasn't fair. At first glance we may conclude that the parable is speaking about "fairness." But upon closer examination we see that the issue is not "fairness" but the generosity of God. Even more to the point the parable brings up the question, can we trust God?
Deep within our hearts we may interpret the Lord's actions as being arbitrary. In other words, He simply does whatever He pleases because He is God, leaving us uncertain as to whether we can trust Him. This, in fact, is not true. The Catechism clarifies this when it says, "God's almighty power is in no way arbitrary: 'In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God's power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect'" (No. 271).
Often times envy rises within our hearts when we are passed up for a promotion, or our siblings are blessed monetarily. We quickly jump to the conclusion that either God doesn't love us as much or He simply isn't paying attention. Determining our relationship with our heavenly Father must never be reduced to comparison with others. In reality, God is infinitely more interested in our wants, needs, and desires than we can possibly imagine. He knows where you are at in your spiritual growth, and He knows what you need when you need it.
The bottom line is do you trust Him as your Father and are you thankful that He has extended grace to you? This parable does not teach us about "fairness" as we have defined it, rather that God keeps His word to us as individuals within the context of community. At the end of the day, we can be assured that God has kept His word and nothing was missed under His loving eye.
What about those who "seem" to be blessed more than you? Rejoice with them. Learning to delight in God's provision for others is another way of acknowledging the Lord's goodness. St. Paul wrote, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Corinthians 12:26). By rejoicing with others you are affirming the security you have within the household of God.
One more thought: Envying those who are successful but do not appear to be serving the Lord is an empty trap. Solomon once said, "Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day" (Proverbs 23:17).
Here are some action items to take this week:
1. Take some time this week to meditate on the blessings of your extended family or co-workers. Verbally thank the Lord for blessing them.
2. In all you do this week focus on the fact that you are in the Lord's vineyard and it is the Lord you are serving. Make every moment a gift to God.