Equality in the Economy of God


nicholas-2nd-in-state


“Culture tells us two great lies about success: you can be whatever you want to be, and you can be the best in the world.”

This was a statement in a newsletter I received. It couldn’t be truer. Not that we want to hear that sort of thing. We want to be told we “can do it”! And, we like believing the lie.

The truth is that we can’t all be the best. We can’t be whatever we want to be.

Just being real here.

I don’t want to buy into the lies. I want the truth, and I think most people (many people anyway) really want the truth. We get tired of the lies. Give me something I can stand on. I don’t want a pipe dream.

I am reminded of the parable of the talents. The point of the parable lies somewhere else completely, but the story is instructive for more than just the main point. It goes like this:

A businessman going on a long trip called his agents in and gave them instructions on handling his wealth.  To one agent he gave $500,000 worth of investments, to another $200,000, and to another $100,000, each according to their experience and abilities. Then he went on his trip. The man who had received $500,000 worth of investments went at once and invested them and gained $500,000. So also, the one with $200,000 gained $200,000 more. But the agent who had received $100,000 went off and put the businessman’s money under his mattress.

When the businessman returned, he commended the first and second agents for their diligence and gave them each more investments and greater authority in his company, commensurate with their successes. The one who put the money under his mattress responded, that he knew the businessman had high expectations and was afraid of losing what he had been given, so he hid it under the mattress. When he returned the $100,000 to the businessman, the businessman fired him on the spot and gave the $100,000 to the first agent,

I have modernized the parable, but the idea is the same. The point is that we should use what God gave us and be fruitful with it. The talents He gives us are not ours to squander but belong to God who gave them to us. He expects a positive return. Further, Jesus said, “[W]hoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”[1]

Seems harsh, doesn’t it?

We don’t even think about the fact that the talents we have aren’t ours. That’s another topic all by itself. Equality in the economy of God is different than what we tend to think.

We focus on the talents we received compared to the talents others have received. The egalitarian ideal that has taken hold of our society today is focused on the comparative number of talents each person has, and that ideal suggests that we should all have the same – or it’s not fair.

We spend a whole lot of time and energy worrying about and trying to legislative and bootstrap some type of equality into a world where there is no such thing as equality and never will be.

I am not saying that people shouldn’t have equal opportunities or that we shouldn’t try to help those who have less. That isn’t what this is about.

The truth is that none of us are or ever will be equal to anyone else. Not ever. One person is born into poverty, and another person is born into wealth. One person is born in the US, and another is born in Angola. One person has 20/20 eyesight, and another person is blind. One person can run a 4 minute mile, and another person can’t run a mile at all. One person is male, another person is female. One person has 170 IQ, and another has 70 IQ.

All the time we spend fretting over equality, ruing what we don’t have, complaining what others do have, passing legislation, trying to engineer society to match an ideal that is impossible to achieve, is wasted.

What are we doing with what we do have? And, who are we using it for? Ourselves?

There is another parable that comes to mind – the parable of the workers in the vineyard. It goes like this:

A factory owner went out at 8:00 am looking for workers and offered people in the unemployment line $100 to work the day in the factory. The owner went out again at noon looking for workers, and hired more; and again he went out at 3:00 pm and hired more.

At the end of the day, the foreman called all the workers to the office to be paid, beginning with the workers hired last. Each of the workers hired at 3:00 pm were paid $100. The ones who were hired first expected to receive more, but all the workers hired at noon were given $100, and all the workers hired at 8:00 am were also given $100.

The workers hired earlier in the day began to complain that the owner had treated them all the same even though they had worked longer than the workers hired later. The owner, when he heard the complaints, reminded the earlier workers that they had agreed to work for $100, and they received exactly what they bargained for. What’s it to them that the owner paid the same amount to all the workers?[2]

That scenario wouldn’t sit well in our present day – no better than it was received in the 1st Century. Ironically, when everyone is treated equally, people complain.  We aren’t happy either way!

The real source of the motivation and the complaints is from our own self-centered points of view. When we are doing things only for ourselves, we compare what we have with others, and we grumble and complain when we aren’t treated the same (or better) and don’t have as much as someone else has.

The fact is that all we have comes from God – our talents and our reward. How are we using those talents? What is the reward we can expect from God?

God promises us relationship with Him, a place in eternity, rescue from our sinfulness and the life and love that emanates from the Creator of the universe. What more could we want?! It will be enough!

Our focus should be on using the talents God has given us, whatever they may be, to bear eternal fruit for the Kingdom of God, and not for ourselves. We should not be concerned that someone may have more talents, or less. Whatever the talents are, they have been given to us to be used for the benefit of others and for the kingdom of God.

In this world in which so much effort is concentrated on equality, in this world where equality is impossible to achieve, God offers equally to all of us the free gift of salvation. Our lives are like a flower that blooms briefly during the day and is gone by night, but life everlasting with God is what He offers to all who come to Him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] Matthew 24:14-30

[2] Matthew 20:1-16

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