“Don’t I have the right to do as I wish with my own money? Or are you jealous because I am generous?'” (Matthew 20: 15).
This is the phrase that stayed with me in last Sunday’s Gospel. When I first heard this teaching of Jesus, I couldn’t help but feel for the labourers that were hired in the morning. It seems so unfair, and in many ways, I can see how it applies both to my life in the world, and my spiritual life.
In my life of the world, I have felt that I have had to work harder than others just to achieve the same things as them. Why do I have to struggle more, work harder, only to get – and sometimes even get less – than others, who seem to breeze through life, not working that hard but seeming to achieve so much more. Why is it harder for me, and not for them? Why did God make life so unfair?
Then in my spiritual life, I see others who more recently have had spiritual conversions, conversions that are powerful. They were complete unbelievers, and somehow, the Holy Spirit has given them a love for God that is gracious, bountiful and passionate.
I, on the other hand, did know that love, joy, and wonder for God as a child. But life happened – several disappointments – and I struggle and toil to have that same sense of trust, that same sense of hope, that same love and wonder for God as a child.
In unguarded moments, I recognise my jealousy for the passionate love for Christ that new believers have. Somehow, their faith and love for Christ converts their entire life, so even the struggles that they had in their own lives – even there, there is grace. They can carry their crosses with such dignity, where I still can carry the disappointments with me as a spiritual deadweight .
So I imagine Jesus responding with my sense of injustice, my sense of unfairness to it all, by saying,
“Don’t I have the right to do as I wish with my own money? Or are you jealous because I am generous?'”(Matthew 20: 15)
How true is this? What if I changed my perspective from my own to God’s. From my perspective, things should be meritocratic: if I put in a lot of effort to trying to love God, then I should receive more love from God. I should also receive more rewards from God.
But does God do things meritocratically? Does He want me to love Him because of the reward I will receive from Him? Is that who God is: someone who is meritocratic or someone who is generous? Does God want me to love Him because of what I can get from Him, or does He want me to love Him for the pure joy of just loving Him?
Which is a more sincere love: one that goes on merit, or one that is given without any ulterior motive? Could that be why I struggle with my faith, in a way that more recent converts do not? Their love is sincere, while mine is more functional in its meritocratic approach.
What does it also say about a God who creates all of us, but only rewards those who love Him? Do parents act that way? Should parents only love the child who excels and works hard? Or would parents work just as hard to take care of the child who struggles, or doesn’t try, or comes last?
No wonder Jesus shows that God is our Father. Generous, bountiful, and judicious. With all of us.
Questions for reflection
How do you see your relationship with God? Do you believe in God because of what He can give you, or do you love God just for who He is: a generous and bountiful Father, who longs to have a sincere and loving relationship with us, that requires nothing but just our sincere love for Him?