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The most important message I picked up from today’s readings overall is there are no ranks in the kingdom of God, and there is no time.
My primary takeaway from each of the passages was this:
- Genesis 39-40 – When God is with us we are blessed, and so are all the people we deal with. We extend God’s blessing to others through our integrity. Also, God speaks to us in our dreams.
- Matthew 20 – There are no ranks in the kingdom of God, and time is an illusion. There is no seniority and no period of initiation or internship. We either choose to walk with God or we don’t. We’re either all in or we’re all out.
- Psalms 20 – My strength and success are not dependent on other people, tools, or machinery. They come from God.
- Proverbs 20 – All things in moderation; but wisdom, patience, and discernment should be taken in long, deep drafts.
I love reading and talking about Joseph, but I think the passage about him is pretty self-explanatory. (If you want to discuss it, indicate this in the comments, because I could go on about Joseph and the lessons of his life all day long.)
The most important takeaway for me today was from Matthew. There are so many people who completely miss the point of this passage. Perhaps its the focus in our western culture on performance, vesting, and punctuality that keeps us from seeing what Jesus is telling us in that one.
It could also have to do with our enormous collective blindspot surrounding our own awareness and performance. As a young person, I was full of the arrogance and hubris involved in becoming aware of something I had not previously known. Once I knew it, surely it should have been obvious to everyone else. Additionally, I had a tendency, when made aware of some practice in the long past of history that would now be considered barbaric, to judge my ancestors (or your ancestors) harshly for something they didn’t know any better than to do. I see this happening with disturbing regularity among younger people today, as well.
Two excellent examples of this are in the areas of Feminism and Critical Race Theory (CRT). Third-wave feminists benefit by the work done by their mothers and grandmothers in the first and second waves, which established their right to vote and subsequently broke down most of the barriers preventing women from fully participating in professional life and society. Yet they speak of second-wave feminists (like me) as being a hindrance to their plans and progress, dismissing our contributions to their easily-gained socio-political advances, when the truth is that neither my generation, nor my mother’s, and certainly not my grandmothers had any of the advantages they have as young women when it comes to choosing a career and making other professional and personal choices such as when and whether to have children. It is ungrateful, at best. But do I begrudge these young women their freedom and advances? No, I do not. I worked really, really hard (and continue to) to make sure that they have those opportunities and privileges now and in the future.
The same can be said of CRT. The current generation of “woke” people (particularly the ones who like so much to use that specific term) is extremely impatient with anyone who doesn’t use the same terminology they do when referring to matters of social justice. In the five years between receiving my master’s degree in Native American Studies and taking a class on CRT, I was severely criticized for using language that had not been approved by the “woke” generation in that classroom, even though it was all perfectly politically correct and was “woke” in concept and spirit by any definition. To those people who had no knowledge of the work I had done or the contributions of anyone outside of the scholars and academics presented to them by the “woke” scholars and academics in that classroom, I might as well have been a racist. They became “woke” basically five minutes prior to my entrance, and they were instant experts. How did I feel about that? I found it annoying, but I was also pleased that so many people were making significant changes in the world of social justice so quickly.
Both of those examples work in two ways to continue the metaphor of the recruitment and payment of the vineyard workers.
The first is this: I could easily be really angry at those people for ignoring all the contributions made by the people who came before them, suffered, and (in many cases) died so they could have their relatively easy understanding of social justice issues across the spectrum. But what would be the point of that? Wasn’t my purpose to create exactly those results, so those younger generations would not have to go through what my generation had to go through? Isn’t their ignorance of the price paid for their advancement by my generation worth the slight? Actually, it is. And guess what? I can have the satisfaction of knowing that when they outgrow the hubris of youth and reach my age and level of experience that they will be able to look back at themselves honestly, just as I am now.
The second thing is this: If my attitude were not what it is, forgiving them for their ignorance and not taking it personally, I would be just like those people who had worked all day long and expected to get paid more: resentful. That is not a Godly attribute. Gratitude in all things is the only appropriate response to anything in this world, all of which belongs to God.
The ultimate point that I’m making here is that many people who have been Christians their entire lives have great difficulty with the “death bed confession,” that “come to Jesus” moment that occurs for so many people in the sharpening of the senses and that white-hot awareness that comes when they are dying, on death row, or after they have awakened (I confess I hate the term “woke”–call me Edwin Newman) late in life to their own negligent or generally bad behavior toward other people (like Ebenezer Scrooge, for example). It rankles them that they worked for so long to get where they are, but someone else can have an epiphany at the last minute and receive the salvation, grace, and mercy of God.
Isn’t it a little mean-spirited to feel that way about someone coming into a right relationship with God and their fellow humans? Shouldn’t we be rejoicing? Yes, indeed, we should.
That’s what I got out of it. What did you get out of the readings today?
You can join the discussion in the comments, below; or you can join us in our private Facebook group that I set up specifically for sharing what we take-away from the readings each day.
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