Life as a River
The New Mathematics of Grace
I recently read a long article (long for this somewhat impatient reader) by Phillip Yancey, In consideration of our culture,and the truth of - TL:DR - translation? TOO LONG: DON’T READ - I am going to share some of his thoughts in 3 short postings.
There are four parables from the Gospels, that if taken literally ‘Do not add up’.
“Luke tells of a shepherd who left his flock of ninety-nine and plunged into the darkness to search for one lost sheep. A noble deed, to be sure, but reflect for a moment on the underlying arithmetic. Jesus says the shepherd left the ninety-nine sheep “in the country,” which presumably means vulnerable to rustlers, wolves, or a feral desire to bolt free. How would the shepherd feel if he returned with the one lost lamb slung across his shoulders only to find twenty-three others now missing?
In a scene recounted in John, a woman named Mary took a pint — worth a year’s wages! — of exotic perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet. Think of the wastefulness. Would not an ounce of perfume accomplish the same purpose? Even Judas could see the absurdity: the treasure now running in fragrant rivulets across the dirt floor could have been sold to help the poor.
Mark records yet a third scene. After watching a widow drop two puny coins in the temple collection bucket, Jesus belittled more hefty contributions. “I tell you the truth,” he remarked, “this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” I hope he said those words softly, for major donors would not appreciate the comparison.
The fourth story, from Matthew, involves a parable I have heard few sermons preached on, with good reason. Jesus told of a farmer who hired people to work his vineyards. Some clocked in at sunrise, some at morning coffee break, some at lunchtime, some at afternoon coffee break, and some an hour before quitting time. Everybody seemed content until payroll time, when the stalwarts who had worked twelve hours under a blazing sun learned that the sweatless upstarts who had put in barely an hour would receive exactly the same pay. The boss’s action contradicted everything known about employee motivation and fair compensation.
The economics are atrocious, plain and simple. Grace sounds a shrill note of unfairness. Why should a widow’s pennies count more than a rich man’s millions? And what employer would pay ‘Johnny-come-latelies’ the same as his trusted regulars?”
To Be Continued... Next week Part 2
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