(This is not the same as last week’s blog)
“Is It Not Lawful?”
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
I read this passage this morning. It seemed appropriate to write about this especially in light of last week’s blog: “It Is Not Lawful.”
In this parable, the householder goes out and hires day laborers to work in his vineyard. He hires different laborers at different times of the day and agrees with them all about the wages to be received.
When it comes time to get paid, those that labored all day long got the same amount as those that were hired at different times throughout the day. It greatly upset those that were hired first thing in the morning. It seemed unfair and inequitable that the one hour workers should get the same as the all day workers.
What I find interesting is the response of the householder. In effect he says they’re asking him to change his word, his agreement with them. But he doesn’t. He stipulates that the agreement was valid and would be fulfilled as agreed upon.
If the householder had changed his word, I don’t think anyone would have questioned it. It only makes sense that those who bore the heat of the whole day should get more than those that only worked for one hour. I worked many years on my aunt’s farm. I know how hot the sun is in mid August. If it were me in this narrative, I’d be pretty mad myself. I get where they’re coming from.
But the householder didn’t change the agreement. Instead he did what, justifiably, was right.
In our college, we had a hall monitor whose responsibility it was to make sure the rules of the hall were followed. One year we had a “go by the book” monitor. Unlike most hall monitors that would let things slide occasionally, he was consistent day-in-and-day-out. At first we didn’t like it. We felt he was too strict. However, after awhile we found great comfort in knowing he would not change the rules. As students, we had already agreed to keep the rules. Therefore, we had no recourse but to shut up and obey. In the end we all agreed that he was the best monitor we’d ever had.
Likewise, the householder. In the end the householder did the only right thing to do: He did not change his word. He said what he meant, and he meant what he said. He was consistent with himself. And … it was lawful for him to do so. Though some might not have been very happy with householder, I’m pretty sure they all respected him.
For many years in my Christian walk, I struggled with the concept that there were two economies of God: The Old Testament (Law) and the New Testament (Grace). Now, I didn’t graduate Magna Cum Laude in college, but I’d like to think I have some common sense.
If (in light of the parable) the householder were to change his word at one point in time, what’s to say he wouldn’t change it again … and again … and again…? Confusing, yes or no? And therefore, if God changes His Word at one point in time, what’s to say He won’t do it again? Confusing, yes or no?
Well, it appears that Christianity doesn’t find that confusing. Which in itself I find … confusing. Therefore, for so many years I felt … confused: What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I see it? What can’t I get it? — However, I just can’t accept the premise that God changes His Word.
What is the average reaction to the very mention of the Law/Torah? It’s an automatic anathema. It is immediately declared that we are no longer “under” Law, we’re “under” Grace. It has to be, in most minds, one or the other. The theological rationale is that you can’t have Law and Grace together. The two are mutually exclusive of each other.
I submit that’s not the case. I’d like to suggest an alternative way to approach this Law/Grace conundrum.
How about this? You can’t have one without the other. You can’t have Law without Grace, and you can’t have Grace without Law. In fact, the two are mutually inclusive of each other. That is the only thing that makes sense. Otherwise we serve, as I said last week, a schizophrenic God.
It is not Lawful for God to change His Word. Or, said this way: the only Lawful thing for God to do is to keep His Word. That’s the reality. God set the standard and so it remains the same. The only thing left for His people to do is accept it — to shut up and obey.
Once I settled upon the awareness that God NEVER changes, and therefore He NEVER changes His Word — a whole new horizon opened up for me. It was, in a word, LIBERATING.
There is actually more liberty in allowing Grace and Law to work in tandem than it is to have them in opposition to each other. Otherwise, you have to do some incredible Bible acrobatics in order to theologically harmonize the, supposedly, two Testaments.
The reality is we’re just not happy with a God we can’t create into an image we want. We want a compatible, compliant, up to date God. One that sort of fits in. One that isn’t too harsh. One that most people can understand and will like. A user friendly God.
Let me close with this thought.
When Yeshua, the Word made flesh, walked this earth, He was consistent with Himself. Since He was God in the flesh, I can only conclude that God must likewise be consistent with Himself. Our God is, and will always be, the same yesterday, today and forever. God and His Word/Torah never change. They both (if I can say it this way) are consistent with each other.
If a householder will stay consistently true to his word, will our God do any less with His Word? I sure hope not. Otherwise, we might have a problem with James 1:17.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
Good news though … God is better than any earthly householder.