What stands out to me in these passages is the role of choice–we can choose to be willing servants reveling in the fact that God is abundantly good or we can choose to be bean-counting servants who continuously scrutinize whether God is being perfectly fair. It is those choosing the second path who will not be able to tolerate the wild joy of life in the Kingdom. The work we are called to is not equal, but our reward is and the reward is sufficient for all.
From Robert Farrar Capon’s Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus:
The last may be first and the first last, but that’s only for the fun of making the point: everybody is on the payout queue and everybody gets full pay…. The only way to solve the problem of evil is for God to do what in fact he did: to take it out of the world by taking it into himself–down into the forgettery of Jesus’ dead human mind–and to close the books on it forever. That way, the kingdom of heaven is for everybody; hell is reserved only for the idiots who insist on keeping nonexistent records in their heads.
And just for fun, from the same book, this is Capon’s dramatic account of the vineyard owner’s last speech (who, incidentally, is played by Robert Mondavi):
‘Look, Pal,’ he says. (Incidentally, the Greek word in the parable is hetaire, which is a distinctly unfriendly word for ‘friend.’ In three of its four uses in the New Testament–here, and to the man without the wedding garment in the the King’s Son’s wedding, and to Judas at the betrayal–it comes off sounding approximately like ‘Buster.’) ‘Look, Pal,’ he tells the spokesman for all the bookkeepers who have gagged on this parable for two thousand years, ‘Don’t give me agita. You agreed to $120 a day, I gave you $120 a day. Take it and get out of here before I call the cops. If I want to give some pot-head in Gucci loafers the same pay as you, so what? You’re telling me I can’t do what I want with my own money? I’m supposed to be a stinker because you got your nose out of joint? All I did was have a fun idea. I decided to put the last first and the first last to show you there are no insiders or outsiders here: when I’m happy, everybody’s happy, no matter what they did or didn’t do. I’m not asking you to like me, Buster; I’m telling you to enjoy me. I you want to mope, that’s your business. But since the only thing it’ll get you is a lousy disposition, why don’t you just shut up and go into the tasting room and have yourself a free glass of Chardonnay? The choice is up to you, Friend: drink up or get out; compliments of the house or go to hell. Take your pick.’
- God is So Good
- Take My Life and Let it Be
- Let Us Break Bread Together
This seems like a good Sunday to remember all that we have been given that is good, regardless of the quantity in which we have received it. Perhaps reading/singing Psalms of praise would be appropriate? These are good passages for people like myself who complain too much…there’s no room for whining in the Kingdom, because there will be nothing to whine about.