Sometimes we question God’s dealings with other people because they seem to receive better treatment from him than we think they deserve. They do not measure up to our often impossible standards. They may be lazy and unreliable. Perhaps they argue and fight constantly. Or they may not have our talents and skills. Consequently, in our opinion, they are unworthy of any favour or special status. So why would God treat them differently?
Ironically, as much as we want God to be involved in our lives and as much as we wish to be part of the kingdom of heaven, we do not always want to let God be God. Instead, we want God to be God as we would choose, relating to people on our terms and influenced by our prejudices and biases.
Fortunately, however, God’s ways are very different from our ways. Unlike many of us, God is not envious or spiteful. He does not have a ‘pecking order’, placing some people at the top and relegating others to the bottom. God has no favourites. As far as God is concerned, everyone has a unique dignity and equal worth.
It can be very difficult to appreciate that, with God, all people are special. Because everyone is important, God’s generosity is marvellous and God’s mercy is limitless. That is how God chooses to be God and we are challenged to respect God’s will. After all, God is our Creator and we are God’s creatures. God has rights too and these rights demand that we let God be God.
The lesson of the parable of the landowner hiring workers for his vineyard is that it challenges us to be grateful to God for what he gives us, and exhorts us to avoid feeling cheated and complaining about the seeming good luck and better fortunes of other people. Also, if we believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God then we need to imitate his generosity and compassion in our behaviour towards other people. Rather than applying human standards to God, we need to apply God’s standards to ourselves.
The Good News is that God’s love and mercy are available to all, saints and sinners alike. When we are privileged to know that God loves us in all circumstances and saves us from our sins, why would we permit rivalry to emerge between ourselves and others whom God treats differently from how we treat them? Is it not sufficient to be assured that our eternal destiny with God is secure because of our faithfulness to Christ’s great commandment, without being jealous and resentful of other sinners’ opportunities for salvation?
When God is generous and merciful to other people, he is not being unfair to us. He is simply being God. Our understanding of God, then, needs to change and we need to let God be God.