An Upside Down Kingdom

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Matthew 20:1-16

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“That’s not fair!” Objects one sibling as he receives his allowance for the week. “That’s not fair that I get two dollars and my little sister who did significantly less work also receives the exact same amount of money. That’s not fair.”

We learn this objection perhaps in our earliest years of life and quite frankly it doesn’t really go away too easily in our adulthood. We seem to think or it’s our natural way of thinking that fairness is the highest commodity that we could ever come by. Whatever is fair must also then be favorable to us. That must be a good thing for us if all is fair.

The young boy objects to his mother and says “it’s not fair that I only get two dollars and my little sister gets the same amount as me.” What if the next week the mother came back and rather than giving that son two dollars she gave him a note and it was full of itemized amounts of money for food or for clothing or for the roof over his head or for the heat that keeps him warm at night. And now he realizes not only is he not going to get the two dollars that he was so sure was fair for him to receive, he is being billed money and the mother simply says as she hands over the note: “there, that ought to be fair.”

As Jesus teaches throughout the scriptures he often lays out a similar scenario to us and he teaches us against our own inclinations that fairness is not at all what we want from the God of heaven and earth.

Jesus tells a parable about workers in a vineyard. It’s kind of like what I just laid out for you. Some worked an entire day in the heat of the sun and some worked a half day and others came at the very last hour and the vineyard owner at the end of the day pays them all the exact same amount of money. One of them objects passionately and says: ‘this isn’t fair. This kingdom this vineyard that you’re running,’ but as it turns out the vineyard owner wasn’t in the business of running a fair business. He was running a generous one. He says to the man’s objection.

Are you envious because I am generous? (Matthew 20:15)

We often think what we want from the Lord is fairness. But the kingdom that the Lord gives the kingdom that he gives in his Son is an upside down sort of kingdom. It is not the sort of kingdom that makes all kinds of sense to our fairness or to our merit for merit kind of kingdom. Rather the kind of kingdom that the Lord gives is a kingdom full of generosity that is not fair in its unfairness is what is favorable toward us. When we learn to call upon the Lord and His mercy. We are thanking him for not dealing with us according to what we deserve, what is fair. When we speak of the Lord as a gracious Lord we are speaking of him as one who is unfair. Who is generous beyond what could ever be expected and generous to us. It is to our favor that he is unfair generously.

When the Lord gives his Son from heaven. When the angels of the Lord come and call out to the shepherds on the plains and they say we bring you not fair news of what you have deserved. They announce to the shepherds we bring you good news. It is unfair news and it is to your favor. We bring you news of God the Father giving his Son as the Savior of sinners the Savior of the whole fallen world. Unfair in our favor. God grant us such an upside down kind of kingdom the one that is unfair to us in our favor. Amen.