Today’s Daily Office Gospel ( Matthew 20:17-28 )
It’s always fun to watch little kids when an adult is divvying up ice cream or cake, or some other goodies, because the kids will invariably start complaining if someone else gets a bigger piece. Usually the first words will be something along the lines of “That’s not fair!”
As adults, we really do try to be fair when giving all the kids some of the treats, but no matter how hard we might try, someone will always get a piece that just doesn’t measure up and feel like they’ve been cheated somehow.
In today’s gospel reading, my first thought was of kids at a birthday party, even though it obviously deals with workers in the fields. Each of the individuals had made the agreement with the landowner for a particular daily wage, and yet, when the last workers, who had worked for only an hour, got paid the same amount as those who had worked the entire day, someone immediately cried out, “That’s not fair!”
The landowner, of course, reminds them that they each agreed to the wages they would be paid. And then he asks them a curious question, “Are you envious because I am generous?”
When we own things, when we are in charge, we can take as much as we want, we can do what we want when we want, and we can decide how things are apportioned. When we are in charge, there is no question of fairness, because we own the things and we decide how they are used.
The only time a question of fairness ever comes up is when we are at the mercy of someone else, when someone else controls the things we want or need.
When someone else controls what we believe we deserve or need, then suddenly we become overly concerned about fairness, almost like we are the ones in control. But we cannot control what happens to us in life, and when others have more wealth, have more health, or have more of whatever it is we want, we need to remind ourselves that this life will never be fair. This life will never be fair.
But the next one will. And that gift is something that everyone who believes receives.