Thursday, September 18, 2014

Not detracting from the goodness of God

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
September 21, 2014

Matthew 20:1-16

Throughout his prophetic career, Jesus stressed again and again his experience of God as "an unfathomable mystery of goodness" that smashes all our precalculations. His message is so revolutionary that, after twenty centuries, there are still Christians who dare not take it seriously.

To spread his experience of this good God to everyone, Jesus compares His actions to the surprising behavior of the lord of a vineyard. Up to five times he goes in person to hire laborers for his vineyard. He doesn't seem too concerned about their work output. What he wants is that no laborer be without work one more day.

For that very reason at the end of the day, he doesn't pay them according to the work done by each group. Although their work has been very uneven, he gives them all "one denarius" -- simply, what a peasant family from Galilee needed each day to be able to live.

When the spokesman for the first group protests because he has treated the last the same as them, that they worked more than anyone else, the lord of the vineyard answers with these admirable words: "Are you envious because I am good?". Are you going to stop me with your petty calculations from being good to those who need their bread to eat?

What is Jesus suggesting? Is it that God doesn't act according to the justice and equality criteria that we use? Might it be true that God, rather than measuring individual merit as we would do, always seeks to respond from his unfathomable Goodness to our radical need for salvation?

I confess that I feel immense sorrow when I meet good people who imagine a God devoted to carefully noting the sins and merits of human beings, to someday give back to each one exactly according to what he deserves. Is it possible to imagine a more inhumane being than someone who has dedicated themselves to that for all eternity?

Believing in a God who is an unconditional Friend could be the most liberating experience one could imagine, the most vigorous strength to live or die. In contrast, living facing a vigilante and menacing God could become a person's most dangerous and destructive neurosis.

We must learn not to confuse God with our narrow petty schemes. We must not detract from His unfathomable Goodness by mixing the authentic traits that come from Jesus with features of an avenging God taken from the Old Testament. Before the good God revealed in Jesus, there is only room for trust.

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