People are always saying that we should read the Bible more often. That if we open the Bible, it would be a good thing to be more familiar with scripture. They make it sound as if the Bible were a pleasant book to read. That somehow, if we just read these pages, we would automatically feel much better.
Hmm…I’ve discovered that sometimes I actually feel worse! There are several strange stories in the Bible. These stories go against the grain of our cherished notions of what it is we are supposed to believe. Take yesterday’s story told by Jesus in Matthew 20. Laborers are hired at different hours of the day by a vineyard owner. Yet, at the end of the day, each worker is paid the same amount! Not fair!
The point of the parable is that God is gracious to all. It should be one of the most loved passages in scripture. But, it has been the source of much contention. A God who does not play by the rules is a God who keeps us off balance, wondering in what new ways God will be gracious next and to whom. We realize, in reading Matthew 20’s story, that we have come face-to-face with a way of living (Jesus’s way) that is not our accustomed way. We have a God who will be gracious even to grumblers, showering blessings from heaven upon the grateful and the ungrateful. This is not a story about how God helps those who help themselves. It is a story of God’s surprising grace, so beyond any comprehension. I guess this story isn’t so bad after all! Let’s leave it at that.