A long time ago, there lived an affluent man who, early one morning, passed by the town’s marketplace to get day’s casual workers (an equivalent of today’s employment bureau). He then hired a band of chaps to serve in his vineyard for a certain day pay. A few hours down the line, he summoned his coachman and rode furiously back to the market to get more workers. He repeated this severally up until dusk – the time for closing the day’s business.
As the sun rays waved goodbye to the hectic day, the workers milled around the Tajiri’s compound to get their due share of pay. They queued from the ones who commenced work in the morning to the last one to be hired. But then came a rude shock; they received equal pay irrespective of manhours spent in the field. Those who had shown up for the job early got hot under the collar. Murmurs were heard and soon one guy summoned the guts to demand fairness. “This is not fair. We got a raw deal. You have short-changed us! We toiled since morning – under the sweltering heat of the day. But look, you give us the same pay as the lad who came just one hour ago! Equal pay for equal work!” This guy could make an excellent trade unionist.
“I thought we had an agreement on what I would pay you. I have done what we had agreed on. I want to be generous, and it would be nice if you don’t hinder me. I want to do something out of this world. I want these young men to run home to their families and say, ‘you won’t believe what has happened to me today.'” Matthew 20.
The story of Shamel
The Scottish theologian of the early 20th century, Peter Taylor Forsyth narrated the story of a man named Shamel, who was a guerrilla leader fighting the Russian Czarist regime of the 1870s. The unity of Shamel group was imperilled by a wave of stealing amongst the members, and the militias families were not spared. To tame the vice, Shamel introduced a penalty of 100 strokes of canes for anyone nabbed stealing.
A short while, Shamel’s mother was found stealing. He was shocked and did not know what to do. The love for his mother was great, and could not allow him to execute the penalty hastily. At the same time, Shamel knew that the law was to be upheld and he was supposed to deliver the penalty without delay; for justice delayed is justice denied. Failure to respect the law would have resulted in chaos and fighting among the militia, and this would ultimately bog down their tenacity and ruin the tenets glueing them together.
This was mentally agonising to Shamel. He went into his tent and stayed there for three days.
After three days, his mind was clear. In respect to the law, his mother was to pay the price of stealing – 100 lashes. However, before three blows had fallen on her frail back, Shamel had his sincere and definitive solution. He asked the militia to untie his mother and instead took her position. And with this, Shamel absorbed the stinging lashes instead of his mother. The price had been paid in full and the law had been observed. Besides, the Love of a son to his mother had prevailed.
God is good
We all want fair treatment. We always think that if we do our best then God will dispense his fairness on us. But God does not function as per our understanding of what is fair.
Can you imagine how the Cross of Calvary was an unfair transaction? If we were to hold to our simplistic demand for fairness, then it means God punished the wrong man at the Cross of Calvary and blessed the wrong ones.
The Gospel is conditioned in this unfair exchange: all of our sins for all of God’s goodness.
Is it fair when Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and to bless those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44)? Do you know that Jesus admonished James and John for suggesting to Jesus that they call down fire upon those who rejected Him (Luke 9:54-55)! Paul tells us that it is better to be wronged than it is to vindicate ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:7). How can we do these kinds of stuff? How can we elect to pray for our enemies and bless those who have maltreated us? These are fundamental questions that transcend feelings and passions. And it would be better to ask ourselves these questions before we accuse God of unfairness.
God is Righteous, Almighty, a Healer, a Counselor, steadfast in compassion and enduring grace. His time, program, curriculum, understanding are NOT reasonable to our terms – which are mostly dictated by emotions.