When I was a kid we lived in Collie for a number of years – so that’s a couple of hundred kilometres down there, about three hours drive or so – and every now and then we came up to Perth for family things, I remember staying with my cousins in Perth, seeing my grandma – I remember sometimes Dad had to come to Perth by himself, wouldn’t that bore you silly?, three hours in a car by yourself, without the kids?
It was always great fun coming up to Perth, there were these different things to watch out for – one way into town I think through Armadale there was this car stuck up in a tree, a bit further on there was a plane stuck nose-down in a paddock, these things were wonderful for country kids who hadn’t seen much of the world. I guess when I look back it, those three hour trips must have been excruciating for Mum and Dad, four kids in the back fighting the whole way down, refusing to allow the possibility that just once we might actually share something, all the time ‘are we there yet …?’ You’ve had that sort of experience?
I don’t think it’s just kids, maybe it’s human beings in general. By the time we’re grown up we’ve maybe got it more under control, but I don’t think we’re genetically programmed to share. It’s not always in our best interests. One of Mum and Dad’s most diabolical tricks was ‘you cut and you choose’, I mean, how do you get around that? How do you cut yourself just that little bit extra, because your sister is the one that gets to choose, so she’s going to get it! The only thing you can do is save it up and use it yourself when you have kids. Gets ‘em every time.
It’s like the do unto others rule, Jesus’ sets up this fiendish guideline that, no matter how you look at it, you can’t get around it, you have to cut the other person the exact same size slice you want to get yourself. Maybe that’s where Mum’s rule came from, maybe that’s where we get a lot of the other rules we live by as grown-ups in a society that’s full of rules to keep us playing nicely. Don’t overcharge, don’t fiddle your timesheet, you work the right number of hours, you get the right amount of pay. That way everybody knows where they stand, things are fair, the world’s the right way up. But remember all those parable in chapter 13 a few weeks back, how I said in the stories Jesus tells, the thing that he most seems to enjoy is taking something that seems the right way up and turning it on its head - like deliberately planting weeds, like tricking your neighbour into selling you a paddock with a treasure buried in it – here he does the same thing and he says, in God’s kingdom your industrial relations laws don’t work, God doesn’t think the same things are fair that you do, try this – it doesn’t matter whether you work all day or you turn up at five-to-five, you get a full day’s pay just the same – God’s kingdom’s really good news for bludgers it seems –
The people listening to Jesus’ story would have been poor, Jesus is telling these stories on the back blocks of
And so you hire the youngest ones, the strongest looking ones, not the ones who look a bit worn out.
And that’s what the farmer does in Jesus story too, except he keeps going back during the day, and he gets more, by the end of the day he’s probably picking up grampas and men on crutches who can’t believe their luck. And here’s the really silly thing, an hour later, everyone gets enough to buy a family’s food for the day. That’s what a denarius was worth. A family gets to eat for a day on a denarius. What they got didn’t have anything to do with how long they worked, or how hard, or whether their work was any good, they just got enough to feed the kids.
Well it was bound to cause grumbling, and in spite of the farmer’s clever words the ones that worked all day have probably got a point. You know what I mean by the ‘work ethic’? You probably grew up with it, I did too, it’s the voice inside that tells you if someone’s paying you’ve got to give value for money. There’s no such thing as a free ride, even if we have these dreams about winning Lotto, deep down we know it’s fair how things are. But Jesus doesn’t think so, in God’s scheme of things there’s a deeper level of fairness, he says, that your human way of thinking just doesn’t get.
Usually I just preach on one reading, takes less brainpower. But today the Exodus reading just jumps out at you. The Israelites, they’re on the run out of
But God gives them what they need, what they need is bread, just enough for today, and that’s what God gives them. What they want is another thing, and they start trying to save it up, maybe open up a little manna shop, except if you keep it overnight it goes off, even in the fridge. You just get enough.
So here’s the difference between us and God – we’re focussed on what we want, and on what we deserve. ‘Give us what we deserve!’ - do you mind if I rephrase that? ‘I’ll tell you what I deserve. Give me that.’
But God doesn’t give them what they want – only what they need. Why? Because in God’s economy – in God’s scheme of things – what human beings are created for is to want God. What human beings are created to rely on – is God. Stashing a few kilos of manna behind the hump of your camel, means not being quite convinced that God’s promises are reliable. That’s the point. God doesn’t give me what I deserve. Just as well, too. God gives me what I need. That’s why it’s in the prayer – word for word - give us today the bread we need for today.
Yes, but. A few people still don’t seem to be getting it though, do they? Where’s God when you need him, when at last you’ve worked out just what he is and isn’t promising. When’s the next delivery of bread in Dafur, how many of the necessities of life got delivered last New Year’s Day in