So many people see Jesus as some flower child walking around in the tall grass with sandals, a robe, and some stringed instrument. This emasculated version of Jesus is not only a perversion of who He is, but is often used as propaganda by many to defend their personal “beliefs.”
One area often misunderstood is the conversation of justice. Some take the idea to the extreme and what “appears” to be the most loving and kind thing is what they assume Jesus was all about. Those who would distort Jesus do not understand how Jesus was both loving, merciful and kind, but also believed in justice, and taught things such as natural consequences.
A previous article, “Defending Justice from the Social Warriors.” may have sparked some conversation on the idea of justice. I hope that it clarified for you your understanding of justice. Once again here is our definition of justice: justice is people being able to own themselves and their possessions.
As a case study for finding out what Jesus believed about justice, we will study Matthew 20:1-16. This passage has the parables of the laborers in the vineyard. Let me state that from the beginning, Jesus’ parables often have deeper spiritual meaning. That being said, they also are true to everyday life, and have universal principles within them.
I’m going to paraphrase the parable, but suggest you read it in Scripture. Jesus is running His business, which I will label “Water into Wine Company.” Jesus owns a vineyard, a winemaking business, and the distribution store near Lake Erie. A freak storm is coming, and He needs grapes picked quickly.
Jesus goes to the temp agency, and offers a man $100 to pick grapes for the day. The man agrees to the contract because most local vineyard owners only pay about $90 a day. He also is excited because up until this point, he has nowhere to work today and would not make anything if Jesus would not hire him.
As they are going along, Jesus sees that they are not going to harvest all the grapes before the storm hits. He heads out and hires two ladies to pick grapes. He will give them a fair wage, which they agree to by contract.
Lunch rolls around and the group is talking about how the job is still too big for them to accomplish. Jesus finds and hires someone else. By late afternoon, before it’s too close to dark, He hires one more person. At the end of the day the job is accomplished. Jesus looks to make a nice profit off His “Messianic House Wine” line.
Jesus gathers all of His employees and gives them each $100 for their work. The man hired first thing in the morning complains to Jesus. He says, “I worked longer than anyone else. It’s not fair that I only receive $100.” Jesus says to the man, “I have been just. I agreed to pay you $100. You agreed to work for $100, and I paid you $100. I have kept my part of the deal. No wrongdoing has been done.”
Jesus then says in Matthew 20:15a “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me (ESV)?” In other words, the money is Jesus’ possession. He kept His word and His contract. He gave the man what they had agreed to. Although Jesus decided to give others a better hourly rate, it doesn’t mean that He was unjust to the man who started with Him first thing in the morning.
Jesus reminds us that we own our own possessions and our own selves again. He also reminds us that even though someone is given something greater than another, it doesn’t mean an injustice occurred. It just means something different was done. Justice and inequality are different terms.
Were you aware that justice was being discussed in this passage, even if you heard it before? Where do you believe that justice ultimately comes from? Is justice the greatest Christian ethic? How do charity and justice work together? These are some of the ideas that I will be discussing in future blog posts.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.