A REFLECTION on the Generosity of God
When I was a child, I was sent to Sunday School. I can’t say I enjoyed it very much and eventually I played ‘hooky’, choosing to spend my ‘collection’ on sweets from Mr Johnson’s shop. This deceit lasted until Mr Johnson reported on me! Needless to say, I withdrew my custom but it didn’t result in Mr Johnson closing down. THat was a big disappointment to me.
His telling on me drove home a lesson that I had failed to learn at Sunday School.
There it was made clear that if I was naughty, God would act like a celestial policeman and punish me. On the other hand, my teacher told her class that if we were good, God would reward us. There was, it seemed, a special angel who kept a register of our deeds. Right hand side to record our good deeds,left hand side for our bad deeds. It was suggested that if we ended up with more good points than bad, we would be allowed into heaven. However, if it was the other way round, we would end up in the other place, where fire and brimstone would be our lot.
I didn’t think my chances of heaven were all that strong!
The doctrine of punishment and reward terrified me and even as I became more enlightened it still took a long time to shake off. At the back of my mind lurked, for longer than I cared for, an image of God who was vengeful and stern and meted out punishment.
Today, at Morning Prayer, the Gospel reading was Matthew 20: 1-16.
It is the story that Jesus told about the kingdom of heaven being like a landowner who hired labourers for his vineyard at various times of the day.
He kept visiting the market place and finding labourers without work. He sent all of them to his fields.
At the end of the day he paid the labourers.
Those who worked all day received the agreed pay. But then the landowner paid the same amount to all the others, even those who had only worked one hour.
Those who had worked all day were angry and grumbled that they should have been paid more. The landowner told them that he wasn’t wronging them. That was the price they agreed. It was nothing to do with them how much he paid the others. It was up to him to do what he chose to do with what belonged to him. “Why be envious”, he said, “if I chose to be generous?”
The story is reminder of God’s nature and how he acts towards us. It is an entirely different picture of the god I learned about in Sunday School.
It helps me to rejoice in God who is kind and generous, compassionate and loving. God who treats us all equally.
Whilst God is always hoping that we will all strive to become the person he longs for us to be, he doesn’t threaten us with hell fire and damnation. Rather, through the teaching of Jesus and the self-giving of Jesus, he gives us an example of goodness, kindness, compassion and generosity.
These are qualities we are invited to work on in our own lives and in our dealings with others.
We know that to develop these qualities, we need God.
We want to mirror Jesus and for that to make a difference to us, to our relationship with God and others, we need to discover a great truth.
We can do nothing without the love and generosity of God sustaining and ‘growing’ us to be delightful members of Kingdom. The great thing is that we only need to ask. When we do, God comes running!
Which reminds me – We don’t earn the right to be inheritors of heaven. It can only come as a Gift to us, from our deeply loving God, who freely and joyfully opens the Kingdom door for us.