His Strangeness

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I remember everyone in my grade 11 French class grinning like idiots. It was the last day of our trip to France and Italy and our tour guide bid us all farewell with a kiss on the cheek, male and female alike. It was all very European, but it made all us guys squirm. We weren’t accustomed to that. It didn’t fit our sense of propriety.

It turns out, lots of life doesn’t fit one’s sense of propriety and that’s okay.

Chapter 20 of the gospel of Matthew begins with a parable about some workers and an employer. He is hiring day laborers and keeps coming back to the market through the day to hire anyone still looking for work. He promises to compensate them appropriately. In the end, those that have worked a full day or nearly so, received a denarius, which a was a standard day’s wage. But those who came late or even just worked one hour also received a denarius. Those who had worked the full day felt they had been slighted, even though they got what they had been promised. The employer explains that they have all received at the very least a fair wage. Then he says,

“I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.”

Matthew 20:14

Jesus’ only comment on the parable is this:

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Matthew 20:16

Now it is commonly understood that this speaks to the nature of eternal reward for Jesus’ followers and what we can expect in heaven. However, I wonder if there is more to it than that.

It tells me that any so called “system” of eternal rewards does not enrich anyone with a mercenary approach to ethics. It also tells me that my sense of fairness or equality does not exist in any kind of superior position to God’s mercy and grace. Basically, I find out that using a system of ethics to predict the workings of the universe is a pretty poor approach when you know the universe was created by a somewhat unpredictable God. Unpredictable in the sense that He is not bound by our rationalizations or tantrums but only by His Holiness.

In God we encounter Someone so wholly other that we need to step back regularly and be confronted anew with His Strangeness.

Lord, I want to wonder at Your Wonder. Open my eyes.

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