Who should receive more from a person’s estate: a child who has had a long, loving relationship with the deceased parent, or an adopted child who came into the family not long before the parent’s death?
Our human sense of ‘fairness’ would probably say the former – but what if God was the father in question?
What would God do?
According to the Bible, God doesn’t always act in ways we would consider ‘fair’. He treats all people equally regardless of who they are or what they’ve done.
Jesus illustrated this point in a story he told about some workers who were hired by the same employer at different times throughout a particular day. One group started work early for an agreed day’s wages. Another group started around 9.00 am and were told they would be paid appropriately. Later on the employer found he needed still more workers and hired groups at 12 noon, 3.00 pm and 5.00 pm respectively. Everything was fine until the employer told his foreman to call the workers in and pay them their wages – and everyone got the same amount. Those who had started work first were naturally incensed.
‘These last workers put in only one easy hour,’ they said, ‘and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’ At this point the employer reminded them that not only did he have the right to spend his money as he saw fit, but that they’d agreed to work for what he paid them. ‘Are you envious because I am generous?’ he asked them.
In telling this story Jesus was saying that God is like that employer in that he is willing to accept ‘latecomers’ to faith. In particular Jesus was addressing the religious leaders of the day who did not like the thought of certain people (particularly the poor and the outcasts of society) inheriting the same external rewards as them.
In the Bible the Jews believed they were the people of God and most of them found it hard to believe that God could possibly want to embrace all people equally regardless of their social or racial standing.
The thought of others entering the picture at a late stage and having access to all the privileges and advantages of those already in the ‘family’ was alien to them.
Jesus was not saying that it’s okay to discriminate, to treat others unfairly; on the contrary the Bible urges us to seek justice for those who are unable to seek it for themselves.
But just like parents who love their adopted children as they do their biological offspring, so God does not discriminate ─ he wants all people to experience his love and the good things he has in store for them.
By: Leanne Ruthven