While listening to the radio this morning I heard an amazing, albeit unimportant, fun fact: Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album is no longer the best-selling album of all time. It has been displaced by the Eagles' "Greatest Hits" album. I chuckled, because I'm not an MJ fan, but do love my Eagles.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I wondered if it was an equitable comparison. First, the "Greatest Hits" album was released in 1976 (yes, I had to Google it; I'm not that much of a fan), while the "Thriller" album was released in 1982 (I googled that too). Consequently, the Eagles' best-seller has been on the market six years longer than MJ's. And, it is a compilation of "Greatest Hits" (don't get me started on which one is my favourite song!), not a regular album. So, is the comparison really fair?
Jesus told a story of equality in grace in Matthew 20:1-16. Several people go to work in a vineyard, each starting at a different time of the day. When the time comes to pay the workers, they each receive the same amount of money. Some of those who worked all day complained about the equality of the situation; after all, they had worked harder and longer than the others! The landowner reminded them that he honoured the agreement established at the beginning of the day and had the right to pay whomever, whatever he wanted. I love the next line, "Are you envious because I am generous?" In retelling this story, Matthew uses an idiom that is lost in translation. Literally, the text reads, "Is your eye evil because I am good?"
The great irony here is the complaint against the landowner was because he was good! Using their own experience as the measuring stick, the workers distorted and misrepresented the integrity of the landowner. Jesus was not trying to stress the equality (or even the inequality) of God's grace (it is always inequitable when we consider who we are!). The emphasis is on the unpredictability of God's grace. God does not have a "one-size-fits-all" approach to His love, compassion, mercy and grace. He meets us where we are, in our own distorted sense of reality, and He reaches out to us in spite of who we are because He Is Good.
Unpredictable, inequitable, undeserved. That is the essence of this grace upon which we are totally dependent (whether we realize it or not). If it were anything else, it wouldn't be grace!