One reason I never tire of hearing familiar Bible stories is their timelessness. They address core human conditions that we wrestle with today–family tensions, love triangles, power struggles, jealousy. The Parable that we heard in church last week reminded me of the popular saying, Comparison is the Thief of Joy, with a twist.
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage [a denarius], he sent them into the vineyard.
As the story continues, the landowner returns to the marketplace later in the morning, midday, mid-afternoon, and near the end of the day, each time hiring a few more workers. At the end of the day, he calls them all in to distribute their pay, paying the last group first.
And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius.And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.”
I love that Jesus tells us that the workers who were hired first expected to receive more than the workers who were hired last, even though they had agreed to work all day for one denarius. I have been in the same situation–content with my salary until I learned that people doing similar work were paid more. (I was so mad I decided to go to law school to rectify that!)
But Jesus calls the workers out:
But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?So the last will be first, and the first last.”
I love that Jesus responds to the human demand for fairness with a lesson in divine generosity. When we think we deserve more than we are getting, we clamor for fairness, right? But once we realize that we are getting more than we deserve, we are grateful.
Because Jesus is not really talking about wages in this Parable, but God’s grace, he may be reminding us that we all are getting more than we deserve, and so we all should be grateful, even if we (wrongly) believe that we are more deserving than others, because God’s grace isn’t earned, but is freely given to all.
So, yes, “comparison is the thief of joy,” but it also can be the thief of gratitude. Instead of comparing myself to others and focusing on what they have that I don’t, or what they can do that I can’t, I can be grateful for all the blessings in my life that bring me joy.
I’m linking up with Deb’s Wednesday Word — check it out!
What are you grateful for this week?
What is bringing you joy?