October 31, 2014

The Homily

food stampsHo, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1, KJV)

***

Jesus: The kingdom of heaven is like a wealthy landowner who got up early in the morning and went out, first thing, to hire workers to tend his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a day’s wage for the day’s work. The workers headed to the vineyard while the landowner headed home to deal with some paperwork. 3 About three hours later, he went back to the marketplace. He saw some unemployed men standing around with nothing to do.

Landowner: 4 Do you need some work? Go over to my vineyard and join the crew there. I’ll pay you well.

So off they went to join the crew at the vineyard. 5 About three hours later, and then three hours after that, the landowner went back to the market and saw another crew of men and hired them, too, sending them off to his vineyard and promising to pay them well. 6 Then finally late in the afternoon, at the cusp of night, the landowner walked again through the marketplace, and he saw other workers still standing around.

Landowner: Why have you been standing here all day, doing nothing?

Workers: 7 Because no one has hired us.

Landowner: Well, you should go over to my vineyard and work.

And off the workers went. 8 When quitting time arrived, the landowner called to his foreman.

Landowner: Pay the workers their day’s wages, beginning with the workers I hired most recently and ending with the workers who have been here all day.

9 So the workers who had been hired just a short while before came to the foreman, and he paid them each a day’s wage. 10 Then other workers who had arrived during the day were paid, each of them a day’s wage. Finally, the workers who’d been toiling since early morning came thinking they’d be paid more, but the foreman paid each of them a day’s wage. 11 As they received their pay, this last group of workers began to protest.

First Workers: 12 We’ve been here since the crack of dawn! And you’re paying us the exact same wage you paid the crew that just showed up. We deserve more than they do. We’ve been slogging in the heat of the sun all day—these others haven’t worked nearly as long as we have!

13 The landowner heard these protests.

Landowner (to a worker): Friend, no one has been wronged here today. This isn’t about what you deserve. You agreed to work for a day’s wage, did you not? 14 So take your money and go home. I can give my money to whomever I please, and it pleases me to pay everyone the same amount of money. 15 Do you think I don’t have the right to dispose of my money as I wish? Or does my generosity somehow prick at you?

16 And that is your picture: The last will be first and the first will be last.

(Matthew 20:1-16, The Voice)

The message I want to share with you today is going to make you mad. At least, it will if I share it properly. It made me angry when it first came to my mind. I’m just giving you a head’s up: You’re not going to like what you hear from me today.

This week I happened upon an interesting conversation on the radio. The host was talking about food stamps, and how he had read in the Wall Street Journal that one in seven Americans are on food stamps. He thought that was outrageous, and that too many people were, in his opinion, “jobbing the system.”

“They need to pay at least a portion of their bill themselves,” he said. “They need to have some skin in the game.”

His first caller was “Brandi from Batavia.” Brandi is a single mom of four from three different dads. She said she has been on food stamps for some time and loves them.

“I don’t see why you’re so against them,” said Brandi. “I don’t have to work and get all I need. I’m living the high life.”

She went on to say she gets about $300 a week in food stamps. The only time she feels bad, she said, is when she runs out of money on her card and she can’t get what she wants for her kids. But, she said, when that happens, she gets in line behind someone who looks like they might have pity on her and foot her bill.

Wow. Talk about jobbing the system. As you might imagine, Brandi from Batavia’s confession unleashed some pretty harsh responses. The next caller said she works two fulltime jobs to provide for her family, and she couldn’t stomach the idea that some of her money was going to pay for Brandi’s food stamps. Another woman said she had suffered a serious illness a couple of years ago, and she was told she could apply for disability. But she refused and worked hard to get her life back on her own terms.

I was on the side of these callers. How could someone be so brazen as to totally depend on others to provide for her while she lived “the high life”?

That was when I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit.

“Brandi from Batavia is a picture of my grace. She receives and rejoices. She doesn’t earn.”

And then the parable we just read came to my mind. Did you read it? Did it make you angry? If it doesn’t, said Michael Spencer, then you didn’t really read it. Here you have a field full of hard workers, those who are doing it right, those who are following the rules. And here come a group of slackers who have done nothing all day long, and they show up as the work day draws to an end. And these losers get paid the same as the winners.

Jesus says, “This is the way it works in my kingdom. You can’t earn your way in. You can’t work to keep your place in line. Everything that can be earned has been earned on the cross. Everything that can be purchased has been purchased with my blood. All you can do is receive.”

Brandi of Batavia buys groceries with money she hasn’t earned and she is pleased as Punch about it. But we aren’t. We want her to shape up, to get a job, to—as the host said—get some skin in the game. We all feel better when everyone does what we consider their fair share. The prodigal came back, we think, at the very least remorseful for telling his dad to drop dead, taking his money, and ruining the family name. We like to think that after he came back he was a good boy, behaving as he should. But what if he went on a-whorin’ and partying in his dad’s house, wearing his dad’s robe? What would we think then?

God’s grace is scandalous; it’s not respectable in the least. Do you not see that in our Old Testament reading? Come, buy food without money, stock up on milk and wine with your food stamps. We don’t read that this is a one-time offer. It seems we can continue to get all the food and all the drink we want without ever having to pay. As a matter of fact, we cannot pay for what God is offering. We can only receive it as it is given—freely.

I will conclude this morning on this note, and it may not be a pleasant one for you. If you want God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness, you are going to have to become Brandi of Batavia. You are going to have to receive these gifts without working, without earning. You may endure ridicule and scorn, but endure you must. Grace is a very hard thing for those who insist on working and earning. But for those who want to live the high life, it is the only gate where entry is available.

Comments

  1. Food stamps is a law issue. (what ‘we do’)

    Christians can heartily disagree about the best way to run a society.

    The gospel is another matter entirely. And is for liberal and conservative Christians. Two Kingdoms doctrine.

    Thanks.

    • yes….

    • So…are you saying that the gospel is to be restricted from civil society? Funny. So I am supposed to live by grace in my own personal life with my friends and family, but when it comes to my fellow citizens, I guess God’s grace goes out the window…

      • Last night I robbed my next door neighbor again. I know I shouldn’t have but they were away and I gave into temptation. I felt bad this morning and repented. Boy am I glad my State has brought their civil laws in line with New Testament grace ’cause now it is like it never even happened! Except that my neighbor has to do without the goods that I took and fenced.

        Hmm, maybe there should be a distinction between civil law and religious practice.

        • Yup! And the distinction is this: Civil law is LAW, and Christianity is Gospel. You cannot enforce the Gospel by the power of the sword which is given to the government. But they can enforce the law, to a limited extent, for the good of society, which is the purpose for which God gave them the power of the sword. The Gospel is not a rule, and to attempt to make it into a rule, enshrined in government, is to make it cease being grace and turn it into a law.

  2. While I appreciate your point, I don’t appreciate the bait.

    I will put myself out there and tell the group that during a period of illness and unemployment a few years ago, my family–two adults and three small children–received for a few months the maximum allotment of food stamps. $300 per week–1200 a month!–is a fiction. For the five of us, we received $760 per month. This is in a high cost of living urban area, too, before anyone starts rhapsodizing that they could buy a house for that. We were able to put basic nutritious food on the table for this amount, nothing extra. No soft drinks, no chips, no candy bars that get talked about so much, no frozen dinners. Chicken breast, broccoli, breakfast cereal, tuna fish. Basic. I’m not complaining–I am still grateful for having been carried through that time with such assistance, and in fact we did kind of think of it as manna, just enough to get through, never enough to set aside for later. I am grounding this conversation in reality, however, because the fable of Brandi has such perennial appeal.

    It’s a fable, though. Like the popular urban myth about a woman naming her child “Fe-mal-e,” it is a myth based on some of the ugliest parts of our culture and history as a nation. There are people who “game the system,” yes. But there are far more who do not. Far, FAR more who have themselves been “gamed” by that very system. I ask, why do we want to talk about the negative exceptions? Why are we so reluctant to talk about the more usual situations?

    I submit it’s a lack of love and abundance of fear. You want the wall between yourself and their need. You don’t want to see the need in yourself or the unearned nature of your fragile present fortune.

    Using this myth as the hook for your homily does the least of these, who you so fear, no favors at all.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      In your defense, the $300/week thing is an outrageous hoax. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone took that story and assumed that, like you did, it was a not-so-subtle attack on the poor. I’ve been on entitlement programs before, and I can guarantee everyone that you would never get that lucky to get that much in food stamps, even if you had kids.

      However, the people who heard Jesus tell the parable of the workers in the field did not like hearing that story, either. I suspect that the reason why this particular parable was told was primarily because it was so incendiary–the thought that someone who had not earned could be granted so much. It’s supposed to piss people off. It should spark some rage–and then we remember that God grants us so much more when we are so undeserving.

      If you read through Jesus’ teachings, he was all about turning these social conventions of reward and personal ownership on their head. Remember in Matthew 5, when he told people to turn the other cheek, give the cloak with the coat, and go the extra mile? Those words were spoken to a society that languished under the weight of classism. The rich hated the poor, and the poor hated the rich (sound familiar?). This parable falls right into that ideology that is intended to confound and enrage, then transcend the way we think about grace.

      You are wrong for taking this story so personally that the point of the message is obscured, just as you would be if you complained that the homily justified the exploitation of entitlement programs.

      • Christiane says:

        maybe it’s only the people who CAN take it ‘personally’ that have the gravitas to speak out their struggle here

        any offense taken at someone’s suffering and difficulty needs to be examined . . . EVERYONE needs help sometime in their life, and when they do, the harsh reality of that need becomes crystal clear to them, if not to those who are more fortunate at the moment and can watch and comment from afar,
        which for me, confirms the truth that ‘God gives grace to the humble’.

        Christ did not come to ‘abstract’ suffering, He came to be present to us in the midst of its reality. Being ‘outside the gate’ among the poor during some point in our lives may be a greater blessing than we know.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          The offense taken, although a legitimate concern in a different context, still misses the point:

          Brandi is neither the focus nor the hero of this story. The agency that provided benefits to her–without first requiring her to demonstrate her merits, her efforts, or her gratitude–is the real hero of this story. This is not a story about who we should be; it’s a story about who God is, and how the kingdom of heaven operates.

          I would put that in all caps, but I don’t want it to seem like I’m yelling.

          And I have been poor before. As a matter of fact, I’m about to transition from BMI (barely makin’ it) to finally having a decent job, so I know where you’re coming from.

          • There is no such agency. To get so much as a free gallon of milk from the government you have to produce a sheaf of paperwork and meet strict criteria. Do some people lie or falsify the paperwork? Sure. Not many, statistically speaking–this has been verified again recently, that the fraud rate is lower than expected.

            If you are enrolled in an educational program and working 19 hours per week you may not receive food stamps for your child. If you work 20, you may.

            In many states, you must sit through 30 hour per week babysitting/hand-holding sessions to prove you are actually looking for work while you receive benefits, if you are unemployed. Most welfare recipients, however, are not unemployed. They just work for a wage too paltry for a person to live on and not starve.

            The bare bones, dare I say even paranoid and miserly assistance of the US federal government to our poor is NOT a fair metaphor for the unlimited mercy of God’s grace.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Again, you’re trying to make this story about your own personal experience; meanwhile, the point of this story is going over your head. This is not a homily intended to attack underprivileged people, or to accurately represent the experience of people who receive entitlement programs. The fact that you have pulled that implication from this story says nothing about Jeff Dunn but, at the risk of getting my head bitten off, it does say something about how you interpret parables.

            I’m sure that a field laborer’s day wages was not enough to go on a spending spree at the market, either. Jesus’ point was not to demonize the workers who came late, or to insist that field owners should pay all their workers the same wage, or to quibble about how much that wage should be. His point, as is Jeff’s, is that everyone has access to grace, and those who feel that they have more privilege than the “others” have no bragging rights. We are all on equal ground here.

            I can’t overemphasize enough how wrong it is for you to take this homily as a personal affront to your experience. You’re taking a story that has a very transcendent theme and interpreting it according to the temporal reality of your previous experience. You have to go deeper and higher, beyond a literal interpretation; otherwise, you’re stuck staring at a bunch of trees and wondering where the forest is.

          • Could you stop condescending to me? It is not “GOING OVER MY HEAD.” I simply DISAGREE and DISLIKE this piece of writing. I don’t think that the point of it is to attack the poor. I think that the ill-advised and badly constructed analogy does so by accident.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Katharina, we can go back and forth all night, but my position will not change. You’re relating to this story as a person who experienced a lot of prejudice and stereotyping as a recipient of entitlement programs, and not as a person who experienced grace, so the implications for what salvation means are getting drowned out by all of this background noise.

            I can respect that you stated in your previous comment that the point of this story is not to attack the poor. However, none of your other comments seem to align with that statement.

          • Nazianzus says:

            “You’re taking a story that has a very transcendent theme and interpreting it according to the temporal reality of your previous experience. You have to go deeper and higher, beyond a literal interpretation; otherwise, you’re stuck staring at a bunch of trees and wondering where the forest is.”

            10/10 on the Stuck-up-edness quotient there.

            And I’ll take a guess here and say Katharina is saying what she is saying because she views the analogy as being fundamentally flawed, and romanticizing something which is far more complex than what it is being made out to be.

            Also, the smugness is really harshing my mellow.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            I can’t do much about the “stuck-up-edness quotient”; that is a purely subjective misinterpretation of where I’m going with this argument.

            What I am saying is that this story was intended to get people to say, “That woman is receiving something that she didn’t earn, and was not grateful for.” If people stop reading at that point, and walk away thinking that the point of this story was to justify slashing food stamps and requiring literacy tests before they will allow poorer families can eat, that is their stupidity at work; I refuse to take that into consideration when addressing the theme and structure of this story, no more than I would ask Paul to rewrite the “slaves, obey your masters with fear and trembling” statement because someone could infer that slavery is justified by Scripture. That, too, would be a shallow interpretation of a text that means to pull readers into a deeper understanding of how we relate to God by addressing how we relate to each other.

      • And quite frankly you have some nerve telling me I am “wrong” to take the story personally. When people uncritically pass along these fables of “welfare queens” they take the bread out of the mouths of children. They perpetuate a story that lets otherwise decent people rest easily upon the suffering of the poor.

        I am not criticizing Jesus here, I think that this homily, in all its smug credulity, is wrongheaded.

        Why on earth, when someone wants to give a sermon or lecture or rant that involves welfare, do they not make their first stop Google and a government website to see what the actual rules, regulations, and limits are for these programs? Facts, people. You won’t get facts from some manipulative partisan talk radio show no matter which way it slants. Look up some actual facts before spreading lies that harm millions.

        • Christiane says:

          Katharina,
          it’s the talk show host(s) that keep the hatred going against the needy and who shelter the wealthy class to whom they themselves belong

          the needy have no voice to speak for them in Congress except for a few souls with the courage to do it, and we know that those brave Congressmen and women, too, are targeted by the shock jocks

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          If this was intended to be told as a literal story, then you would have my full support in slamming this homily. I would add my personal experience to your own, being an African-American college student who was accused more than once of gaining admission to college because of my racial identity, instead of my merits, and wondering more than once if those accusations were justified. I would complain about how, when I couldn’t find work and I was on food stamps, I heard people calling people like me “freeloaders” when I was afraid to say anything in defense of myself.

          However, this story is not intended to be taken literally. There are very few human institutions on earth that award equal benefits to people regardless of merit, but we need to know how the kingdom of heaven operates, so we take an institution and posit a story that explains that point better. Most importantly, however, I think that it needs to be an institution that can unsettle folks, like our food stamp system, and raise some anger when we say, “You don’t deserve this, but it’s yours anyway.”

          Honestly, the only element missing from this story would be if Brandi got a note from her servicer that said, “Don’t worry about proving your value or filling out any paperwork to demonstrate that you are in college or are getting a job. These food stamps are yours if you want them, because we love you so much.”

        • Robert F says:

          Karharina von Bora,

          Although I don’t think it’s germane to the discussion of this post, and I’m generally in favor of a much larger safety-net than exists in the U.S., I personally know an unmarried couple who remain unmarried specifically so that the woman’s two children by previous relationships can continue to be recipients, through their Mom, of state sponsored health insurance benefits that are practically free. The Mom makes a good wage, and refuses to work any overtime since the additional income might disqualify her kids for receiving the health care benefit; she could receive health care through our employer, which provides a low cost, high quality health insurance program to all employees, but she’d rather receive the freebie. Her live-in boyfriend makes a very good salary, and they live a very good lifestyle together, routinely making purchases of high quality, expensive goods and skimping on nothing. Even though she is doing nothing illegal, in my opinion she is bilking the system, perhaps in a relatively small way, but if enough people are doing what she is doing it adds up very quickly.

          Btw, neither she nor her boyfriend is an ethnic minority, so you can throw the stereotype out the window; and in my opinion, her opportunism is probably depriving someone else of badly needed benefits that are in short supply. That’s what upset me.

          • Robert F says:

            And Katharina von Bora,

            I don’t know why it’s so difficult for some of the above commentators to understand what you’re saying; it’s perfectly clear. You’re saying that the the post inadvertently reinforces stereotypes by playing into them, and using them as a plausible premise instead of dismissing them out of hand.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Tell you what, Katharina, let me ask this question: how would you take Jeff Dunn’s story and turn it into something that you could live with?

      • Marcus,
        I’m reading this a day late, but had to log in to say that your comments read like a hard-headed bully, and it’s no wonder Katharina left you holding it in your hand. You seriously need to chill dude.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          I hardly ever get that harsh. You can check some of the other conversations on this thread as an example; I love reasoned debate, and I can concede where concession is necessary. But the idea that Katharina would let such a small detail distract her from the point of the story tells me something is up with her interpretive lens. I’m very immobile about such things, and I’m not at all apologetic about it, either.

          The story of Brandi was meant to illustrate the parable in Matthew 13. A few chapters later, Jesus told the story of the unforgiving servant. According to the story, the unforgiving servant owed ten thousand talents. Some estimates put that amount near 10 billion US dollars. Imagine someone coming up to Jesus after he told that story, who would say, “I get the point–we need to forgive as we have been forgiven–but I resent the way you portrayed debtors. I was in debt in the past, and people stereotyped me and called me lazy and a deadbeat. When you say that the servant owed ten thousand talents, and that he was brutal to one of his servants, I really take that personally, because people might hear that and assume that people in debt are all ungrateful bastards.” That person might have a genuine concern about stereotyping that needs to be part of a totally separate conversation, but the obsession over such a minor detail as what the servant owed is really inconsequential. That is the same argument I’m raising with Katharina, and I have to use the word “wrong” a lot, because that’s just what that point of view is.

          In addition, I never called her opinion stupid, and I never suggested that her experience is not valid (as a matter of fact, I echoed her concern over possible stigma a couple of times in this thread). I did call her wrong, and I did say she missed the point, because she was and she did.

  3. Robert F says:

    I agree that grace is scandalous and offensive to our human expectations and ideas of right and wrong, but the parallel with the account about Brandi is not accurate for this reason: we taxpayers are not wealthy landowners, and many of us are in situations very similar to Brandi’s, but she’s having her way paid while we may be suffering lack. It would be as if the wealthy landowner paid the ones he hired earlier, then took wages back from them so that he could afford to pay equal amounts to the ones he hired later Also, there is the issue of her seeming ingratitude: the wealthy landowner would probably not be too happy about that.

    Having said that, I agree in substance with the comments of Katharina von Bora above.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Be careful with the term “we taxpayers.” Barely less than half of all Americans actually pay taxes, due to income level and tax benefits. I suspect many folks who whine about how much the poor receive at the expense of “us taxpayers” would be surprised to find out that they, too, pay no taxes at all. Keep in mind that the wealthy landowner takes the wages back from the workers and, in many cases, gives the whole amount back at the beginning of each year. Talk about how grace works! So many of us think we are hard-working taxpayers, but we really are not!

      I guess if you want a more appropriate analogy, I would go for one in which the wealthy landowner hires workers, but before the workers show up, the landowner does all the field work by himself. The workers show up, put forth a day’s effort, but they can only bring in the chaff, because the landowner did all the work. He pays them all equally, not because of the results of their efforts, but because of the generosity of his grace.

      I’m not surprised that this is the reaction that people have to the above homily. I recall Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 13 about the way we respond to parables. We tend to get calloused and temporal in our reactions, primarily because the parable, as it is told, exposes our unrighteousness and our vulnerabilities. Does that say something about the problems with the story, or does that say something about us as listeners? I’m thinking it’s the former.

      • Robert F says:

        I don’t disagree that the parable that Jesus told is offensive to our sense of right and wrong, whether in the first century or today; I just don’t agree that the example given in the post either reflects the nature of that offense or helps to extend the meaning of the parable, primarily because we live in a very different socio/economic/political reality, and we really need to make the imaginative exercise of putting ourselves in the sandals of first century Palestinian reality to plumb the depths of meaning in the parable. Translation into current terms is very difficult, even though the meaning of the parable is clear as can be.

        Referring to your first comment above: Jesus teaching was even more offensive than you suggest. Remember that Jesus was telling a people, the Jews, occupied by a foreign power, the Romans, to turn the other cheek. It was more offensive than if he told the Brazilian protesters currently in the street to turn the other cheek while they are being exploited by the rich, to go the extra mile when asked to give up more and the wealthy are being asked to give up nothing, to accept every slight and injury given by the privileged without resentment or the desire for revenge.

        Who can accept such a teaching?

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          I can see some room to disagree about whether the Brandi story is perfectly reflective of the parable in the field. It is something that is hard to modernize.

      • Donalbain says:

        Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
        It is categorically untrue that “Barely less than half of all Americans actually pay taxes”. To continue to make that claim is to be a liar.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Just for clarification purposes, by “taxes,” I’m referring to income taxes. And that is not a lie; it’s just a fact that some folks don’t want to accept.

          Still, you’re missing the main point of the comment.

          • And that claim is purposely misleading: all working American who fall under the income tax threshhold pay Medicare and Social Security taxes (which do in fact fund general gov’t expenditures). There are also many Americans who are unbelievably wealthy who do not pay income taxes, i.e. Mitt Romney because they either only subsist on capital gains income or on the “carried interest’ exemption.

            The point is to make it sound like the poorest 50% of Americans are freeloaders, when in fact they are not and many wealthy Americans look much more like freeloaders than those who honestly work and yet fall under the income tax threshhold.

          • Yes, the “50% pay no taxes” statement only applies to Federal Income tax. But when you factor in State, local, sales, SS, medicare, tolls, and all the hidden fee in gas, telecom, etc. EVERY American has a tax burden that is much higher than they are aware of. Of course this whole discussion is a bunny trail that has nothing to do with the article but given my political bent I can’t resist chiming in.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Well, TPD, I can definitely agree with you there. I fully concede that the question of “who pays tax” has nothing to do with this homily.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “Barely less than half of all Americans actually pay taxes, due to income level and tax benefits.”

        It is a peculiarly pernicious lie that less than half Americans pay taxes. (This is not to say that I believe you are lying: merely repeating one.) Less than half pay *income* taxes. There are many more taxes than that, most of them very regressive. Put gas in your car? You have paid taxes.

        I’m not sure what you mean by “and tax benefits”. My guess is that the idea is if you get something in return for your taxes, then they don’t count. Drive on a public road and you have received tax benefits. So maybe you didn’t pay tax on the tank of gas after all?

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          I was referring specifically to income taxes in my earlier post. Otherwise, you’re right, everyone pays some kind of tax.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “Barely less than half of all Americans actually pay taxes, due to income level and tax benefits.”

          IF true (and those who do not can still vote themselves “free” goodies from the gubmint), this is a dangerous uncoupling of responsibility from reward. Producers/Suckers vs Moochers, just as prophesied in Atlas Shrugged; no wonder Ayn Rand is becoming the Fourth Person of the Trinity and Objectivism the new Gospel among taxPAYers.

          And I have run into “jobbing the system” types like Brandi, and have always been amazed at their arrogance.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Working in higher education, I’ve seen my share of Brandis as well. However, that creates a new question: are we supposed to be like Brandi, or is the point of this story to show us not who we should be, but who God is in relationship to us? I think it’s the latter.

      • Everyone pays taxes. Most food stamp recipients work, but for employers like Wal-Mart, who depend on the federal government to make up what they refuse to pay in wages. Wal-Mart benefits on both ends of the food stamp question. I’d re-name food stamps “corporate relief stamps” since its the WalMarts, Safeways, and Publixes that get the real and final benefit of food stamps. It’s like pouring a bucket of water on someone, then condemning the person for being wet.

      • Christiane says:

        take a look at the wealthy who DON’T pay taxes . . . the weight of taxation has fallen on the middle class and we have allowed that to happen

        worship of wealth has gone to extremes and our schools fall apart, the children of many single and divorced mothers live below the poverty line, and our infrastructure is crumbling badly

        I don’t need to ‘rant’ about what we all know to be true . . . examine the tax breaks of ‘wealth care’ and do not begrudge the poor their food stamps

        our ‘anger’ is directed at the wrong folks, I’m afraid

        • David Cornwell says:

          Amen. Corporate welfare of various kinds is far more outrageous than the cheating of some people on the other end of the spectrum. And most poor people are not like the one who called in.

          However the discussion about who is right and who is wrong sort of misses the whole point of the story. If Jesus retold the story for us now, most of us would be mad as hell at the outcome. Grace just ain’t fair.

          • Christiane says:

            so God will help those who haven’t done what they need to do in order to earn His help . . .

            actually, in a WAY, this concept works out when it is used to affirm something of great importance in salvation, this:

            The belief in my own Church is that the way of salvation ALWAYS passes through Christ . . . through what we call ‘The Paschal Mystery’

            We also believe that, for those who through no fault of their own do not know Christ and are not recognized as Christians,
            the Divine Plan has provided a way of salvation.
            “God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel” to the faith necessary for salvation. Certainly, the condition “inculpable ignorance” cannot be verified nor weighed by human evaluation, but must be left to the Divine judgment alone,
            . . . that in the heart of every man of good will, “grace works in an unseen way…. The Holy Spirit, in a manner known only to God, offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery”.

            in short, we let God be God . . . we know that the mission of the Church is to present Christ to the world,
            but we are limited in reaching all people of good will who seek God and obey their consciences,
            but the Holy Spirit goes ‘where He will’ and God saves ‘whom He will save’,
            . . . we cannot know HOW He accomplishes what He sets out to do, we just know He will do it.

            the concept that people have to jump through certain hoops in order to receive a reward is challenged by the parables, yes, but in a way that understands that God will save those whom He will save, and not just those whom we approve of as ‘fit’ to enter into the Kingdom of God.

            what is meant to challenge us in our righteous smugness, does . . . but not totally in a ‘controlled’ way,

            . . . once we have accepted that God’s Ways are far above our own understanding and that He has come also to those who love in this world . . . He lives in them and they live in Him, and these sheep know their Shepherd, if not by the holy name, certainly by the sound of His Voice asking them to live out their lives in loving-kindness for others, and in trust, they obey the Voice of their savior

          • David Cornwell says:

            “God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel” to the faith necessary for salvation. Certainly, the condition “inculpable ignorance” cannot be verified nor weighed by human evaluation, but must be left to the Divine judgment alone,
            . . . that in the heart of every man of good will, “grace works in an unseen way…. The Holy Spirit, in a manner known only to God, offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery”.

            Christiane, I like this theology– it’s all grace. Amen.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Certainly, the condition “inculpable ignorance” cannot be verified nor weighed by human evaluation, but must be left to the Divine judgment alone…

            David, I hope you know how frustrated some professed Christ-followers are by that statement. We like to think that the Bible lays out a clean-cut path to salvation that we can turn into a rubric to assess spiritual development of others. But now it’s up to “Divine judgment alone?” Ooh, how incendiary, to think that we are not the “deciders” or the “gatekeepers.” There is no “Shibboleth” that we have been given, because we are incapable of going that deep into the inner working of people’s souls.

            Grrr…the power was never ours to begin with…grrr…

          • Christiane says:
          • Christiane says:

            MARCUS,

            you do ‘get it’ . . .
            is this the thing that divides Catholics and Orthodox from many conservative evangelical Christians?

            you don’t hear the word ‘mercy’ much among some, and I’m afraid that the concept of ‘God’s Wrath’ positively resounds among others almost in a gnostic way,
            which causes me to think that the great Justice of God which bends towards the protection of the innocent from harassment, is far more cause to glorify Him than His anger towards any soul possibly could.

            I have tried to understand the different perspectives out there, but my image of Who God Is keeps coming back to what I know about Christ that has been revealed . . . other extreme doctrinal concepts of God that contradict Christ’s whole persona don’t make much sense to me.

          • Robert F says:

            “…..I like this theology-it’s all grace…..” Except the part about grace working “in the heart of every man of good will….” Only those of good will? I was hoping Jesus came to save stinkers like me; I thought that was the whole point.

          • Christiane says:

            Hi DAVID CORNWELL,

            those quotes you like are from ‘Ad Gentes’ and ‘Gaudium et Spes’ . . . they were favorite quotes of John Paul II who used them in one of his audience addresses.

          • David Cornwell says:

            “they were favorite quotes of John Paul II”

            Thanks for the information. I’ve much to learn all around. At least some things give me hope. Some days it’s needed. So thanks Christiane.

        • Sorry, but there are no “wealthy who DON’T pay taxes.” This idea is as fictitious as the Welfare Queen. Both are straw men invented by extremists to stir up their respective ignorant bases.

  4. JoanieD says:

    The difference between the parable and the story of Brandi, though, is that in the parables all of the people DID work, just not the same length of time. Brandi didn’t work. There are times that people do need the help of food stamps. I think it is too bad the way Brandi was throwing her receiving of them in the face of others working hard to stay afloat. A little humility could go a long way.

    • I agree JoanieD. This analogy breaks down in that the workers were paid by the owner. Food stamps are paid for by the workers. Two very different sources. With “Brandi” receiving having her needs met by the government, she can then continue to procreate with other men. The issue of her sexual sin is not even addressed.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And with the way AFDC is set up, every time Brandi has a kid, she gets a raise. So why not?

        • AFDC has been dead for nearly 20 years, time to update your information base. TANF has a strict lifetime limit on it, and in many jurisdictions “right to work” means that you will be forced into a part-time minimum wage job that is less than your already paltry benefit as soon as possible or set to some form of quasi-indentured servitude.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Given the way that grace is bestowed upon us, though, I think we are more like Brandi than the workers in the field. Salvation was awarded to us “while we were still sinners”; in other words, while we were unaware of, and demonstrated no gratitude for, this measure of grace. So, as much as we might want to knock Brandi about the head and shoulders, we were all just like her (many of us still are).

      • Final Anonymous says:

        Or might become like her at some point.

        We are all one serious illness, natural disaster, or car accident away from a spiral of circumstances that could lead us to a point of approaching life just like the fictional “Brandi.”

  5. Like many others, I would share that the grace and abundant giving of God is a reality that we need to grasp as Christians….as evidenced by the Prodigal Son and the Workers in the Field. I would submit that distribution of earthly manna must follow a slightly different pattern, due to the limits of resources here. God has no such issues of limits.

    I also wonder if “Brandi” was not a caller with a good sense of humor (or irony) who called in with this inflated fable to stir up the faithful indignant. That she represents a real sub-category of “entitled” people cannot be argued, and that “type” does inflame the passions of those whose wages are taxed to provide this largess. I would venture that most Americans have no issue with providing for those who cannot care for themselves, but have less enthusiasm for providing for those who WILL NOT care for themselves.

    Finally, I would like to point out that in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Father does not go looking for his son IN the pig-stye (or the whore-house) and offer to support him as he carried on his hedonistic and sinful lifestyle. The son had to make a move toward home, at least in his heart, before grace (and money) were offered. Likewise, the workers in the field who started at dawn got the normal and customary wage, and had no real gripe with their pay. Their only issue was the generosity of the Landowner, and the sense that someone else “gamed the system” and got, NOT more, but the SAME as they did. No one was harmed or cheated…..only the cry of the spoiled child of “it’s not f-a-a-a-I-I-I-I-I-r-r-r-r-r!!”

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “I also wonder if “Brandi” was not a caller with a good sense of humor (or irony) who called in with this inflated fable to stir up the faithful indignant.”

      I wonder if “Brandi” was not a complete hoax created by the producers of the show for political purposes. It is a modern equivalent of the old welfare queen driving a Cadillac lie.

      • Richard, you beat me to it. That’s exactly what I was thinking—planted there to prime the pump, just like the [obese African-American] welfare queen driving a Cadillac. Gets people up on their hind legs.

      • This was to me the obvious likelihood from the get-go. A lot of my frustration has to do with the fact that even many who are politically opposed to the libertarian-right attitude towards welfare still fall for the hoax because it appeals to their baser human emotions as well.

    • Danielle says:

      I also think that Brandi was fake call, probably a plant or someone getting their jollies. Call is too “perfect” for talk radio fodder. If the caller is serious, she just likes the idea of her “free money” and thinks she games the system, but is in fact clueless about her situation. If the caller is only to food stamps and charity in supporting 2-3 kids, her purchasing power is pretty low, honestly. She can call it whatever she wants, but that’s the reality of it.

      The story doesn’t exactly fit the parable scenario… but I think it is pretty easy to feel the outrage when some workers get a day’s wage for a little clean-up work, while the effort of others goes unrecognized. IT cuts against human conceit … at issue is not just the perceived economic injustice, it’s also the fear that one’s labor is not seen or valued, that one’s efforts would treat it as equivalent to just an hr of work.

      I’m sure we do this in spiritual things. I’m being good! I’m doing good things! I want my reward … or at least I want my kudos! I especially want my kudos if I am not expecting a reward!

      • Danielle says:

        Cell phone typo horrors!

        *is only relying on food stamps and charity

        *that one’s efforts would be treated

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I also think that Brandi was fake call, probably a plant or someone getting their jollies. Call is too “perfect” for talk radio fodder.

        Brandi was probably a crank-yanker getting her jollies, but there used to be this one infamous “Welfare Bum and Proud of It” type for real who used to spend 24/7/365 online bragging about “jobbing the system” to every USENET group he could find. Extremely arrogant — “Work hard, you Stupid Suckers! Pay Your Taxes so I Can Get Everything for FREEEEEEE!” In the USENET days, this guy even had a USENET hate board dedicated to him.

        As this guy was connected with both Comics and proto-Furry Fandom, I was able to confirm his existence. (And get a physical description from fans who had actually met him face-to-face — fanboy spheroid with serious porn addiction.) Don’t know how he was able to get broadband (at least what passed for it at the time), but he did. So guys like that DO exist and they are LOUD.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Starbucks in the U.K. manages simultaneously to report that it’s a loss-making operation to the revenue commissioners so it pays minimum tax, and tells investors it makes a profit so they should invest for a good return.

      From my Dee & Dee days, “BUT THAT’S NOT FAIR!!!!!!” is the characteristic cry of a “trid” player who got caught cheating when the DM lowers the boom or the other players take in-game vigilante action or both.

      (“Trid” = “dirt” spelled backwards; Seventies-vintage local gamer’s term. The term used today is “Munchkin player”.)

  6. Even if Brandi is real, and not someone trolling the radio show, then it’s not her who is receiving the benefit, it’s her four kids. When we say (rightly) that defrauding social welfare takes tax money, we forget that there’s always a condition.

    Okay, suppose Brandi is real. Suppose she does get this huge amount of food stamps (and like others, I’m very sceptical about this, if you know anything about the way government assistance programmes work in various nations). Suppose she’s cut off.

    What happens her children? Probably they will be taken into care. So they will still be on the public expense, taking money from the public purse. Or do we say “Let ‘em starve”? After all, they haven’t contributed anything either, and may just grow up to be criminals and spongers like their mother!

    There are those who milk the system, game the system, and steal from the system. But talking about paying tax – it’s large corporations as well who are tax dodgers. I don’t know if any of you saw the recent controversy about Apple in Ireland and how it’s not paying taxes (allegedly) or how Starbucks in the U.K. manages simultaneously to report that it’s a loss-making operation to the revenue commissioners so it pays minimum tax, and tells investors it makes a profit so they should invest for a good return.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Starbucks in the U.K. manages simultaneously to report that it’s a loss-making operation to the revenue commissioners so it pays minimum tax, and tells investors it makes a profit so they should invest for a good return.

      Ah, the wonders of Creative Accounting(TM) and two sets of books. Ask anyone in the movie industry who got paid on points of the net(TM) instead of the gross.

  7. I think you’re right on, Jeff. I always thought of this gospel as one of the “MYOB” gospels – Mind Your Own Business. We all tend to focus on Brandi. If the call was a set up, that’s the radio show’s problem -MYOB. If it wasn’t, that’s Brandi’s problem – MYOB. I agree with all the points raised above, but it’s clear to me that I’m unqualified in God’s eyes to sit on my personal throne and judge. The radio show points to just a few of the flaws in our increasingly unfaaiirr social system. I’m not suggesting we don’t try to help rectify the gross inequities in our society or try to rehabilitate Brandi (whatever that means, given our exalted status and wisdom). Paraphrasing what Martha said (I hope) – don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Jeff, I particularly liked your analogy at the end, and the tie in with Isaiah. Great (provocative) post.

    I’d continue to write further, but I’m sitting on my deck having coffee, ejoying my landscaping. I did, after all, create it and earn it. I need to check my stock portfolio also.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Wonderful response, MarkC.

      Other MYOB parables: The parable of the ruler who refused to forgive his debtor, the story of the rich man.

      I’m sure there are others, but I, too, am in need of coffee.

      • Thanks, Marcus.
        I also like when Peter asked: “But what about him, Lord?” Not too much ambiguity there. (On my second cup. Life is tough.)

    • Robert F says:

      If you were a legislator or a social worker charged with the duty of monitoring the correct administration of benefits from government programs, you’d be remiss if you did MYOB; and as a citizen and voter (if you are one), what is done with the funds appropriated by government from citizens in the form of taxes should be a concern of your business, whether those funds are going to assist poverty stricken individuals or bail banks out of big trouble. If we don’t have a right and duty to assess the legitimacy of a welfare claim, then neither do we have the right and duty to assess the legitimacy of a bank bailout.

      What if Brandi had been the CEO of a big bank bragging about being bailed out by the U.S. government? Would anyone feel differently?

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        And if you were the brother of a prodigal son, and your father threw a party for your brother who had run away from home and squandered his inheritance, how would you feel when the father came up to you and said:

        My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

        Would I feel differently then?

        I understand that there is an impulse to take this story and use it to criticize our governmental system, but that is a complete 180-degree digression from the main point of this homily. Grace is available to everyone regardless of merit or effort; that is the point of this story.

        • Robert F says:

          How this relates to current domestic social and economic reality in the U.S. is a very dicey thing, but I’m most definitely not positioning this as a criticism of our governmental system. My own understanding of Jesus’ parable is this: even if I come to believe in Jesus Christ at a young age and conscientiously strive to live a life that honors God and exhibits real love and compassion for my neighbor, I will receive no greater reward than if I truly repent and believe in Jesus on my deathbed after a long life of lying, cheating, stealing, abusing, murdering and making a lot of money doing those things. That’s the scandal of God’s grace and generosity. One time when I was talking with a devout Muslim co-worker, this is the very idea that he scoffed at and in which he found warrant for dismissing Christianity: the idea that a deathbed sinner who repented and Mother Teresa would receive the same reward. To him, nothing could be more manifestly unjust and absurd and he couldn’t take seriously a religion that preached it.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            I can get on board with this interpretation.

            However, if I may take it one step farther: this story is not just about the distance between the sinner and the gift of salvation as defined by units of time (i.e., the person who comes to Jesus early in life vs. the person who comes to Jesus at the deathbed). It also encompasses the depth of depravity, the emotional and social distance we place between ourselves and the throne of grace. It means that Hitler, while he was alive, even at the height of the Holocaust, had just as much right to the gift of salvation as I do (don’t worry, I’m not positioning myself as the polar opposite to Hitler). It means that Bill Maher, who ridicules a distorted perception of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular, in both his stand-up routine and his talk show, is just as deserving of the grace of God as the missionary team from my church who goes annually to underdeveloped countries to drill wells, teach hygiene, and preach the gospel. It affirms Romans 5:8, that “while we were sinners,” not once we got saved, “Christ died for us.”

          • When I was a child (literally…age eight or nine) I remember having the very legalistic thought that it would be GREAT to live exactly as I wanted until I was really, REALLY old and close to death [I think the age I thought would qualify was sixty!] and then have a serious conversion and get to go to heaven.

            While it is lovely to know that this sort of grace is out there, clearly choosing to ignore God in the here and now is no longer in my plan! Like us all, some days I do a better job than others of remembering Who put me here and what I need to focus on to follow Him.

            And Jeff, I knew this would get mis-directed PDQ. Mention social welfare programs and concepts of equity and justice and the knives come out from EVERY side.

          • Robert F says:

            We all have the same “right to salvation”: none.

  8. Thanks, Marcus.
    I also like when Peter asked: “But what about him, Lord?” Not too much ambiguity there. (On my second cup. Life is tough.)

  9. As I correctly predicted, many of you did not like what I had to say. You jumped on Brandi of Batavia (whether or not she is “real” makes absolutely no difference here) and the whole welfare/food stamp system of our country. I wonder if those who heard Jesus share the parable of the workers of the vineyard got off on the topic of workers standing around all day, what should be done to insure only qualified workers were hired, how much those who start in the morning should be paid compared with those who show up at quitting time, etc.

    I stand by what I said. If you want to receive God’s grace, you must become Brandi of Batavia. But I know that doesn’t sit well with most. Very few like to feel they are getting something for nothing …

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      I get it, Jeff. The homily was not about who Brandi is, or whether we should sympathize with her, or use that story to manage public policy regarding entitlement programs. The homily, as was the same with the parable from which it was inspired, is about God, about the kingdom of heaven, and about grace that is provided to us, even though we don’t deserve it and may not be grateful for it.

      Too bad some folks can only take the position of the Pharisee, who brags in his prayers, “Thank God I am not like that publican.”

    • Phil M. says:

      “We are beggars: this is true.” – reported to be Martin Luther’s last written words.

    • Sorry, I don’t feel the need to be like Brandi to relish in God’s grace. Receiving this gift as freely as we do means that we turn & do likewise for others (freedom & responsibility being intertwined). Brandi doesn’t seem to think/act much beyond herself. There’s a razor thin line between using this story as an example of the lavishness of God’s grace & cheap grace. Recall the last words Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery to “go & sin no more”. No one had a right to cast the first stone because all had sinned, but I think Jesus also wanted the woman to know that this gift of grace could/should transform her life.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        We’re not saying we have to be like Brandi; we are saying that we were Brandi. Remember, the idea is that “while we were yet sinners”–ungrateful, unaware, undeserving–that’s when the gift of salvation was offered.

      • Like this. Freedom leading to responsibility sounds like a great paraphrase of “grace that instructs us to deny ungodliness….” Any kind of “grace” that does not do that (and this is a lifelong class, so I’m not talking about any kind of snap fix) is suspect, to me. The “Brandi’s” that I’ve known in real life were too glad to have more, more , more……. and were not that grateful.

    • Travis Sibley, aka BigLove says:

      Wonderful piece, Jeff! You have taken a situation that is socially relevant to us, as was the story of the workers and the landowner in the day of Christ, and shown just how upsetting it is then and now.

      An excellent picture of just how scandalous grace really is. Grace continues to upset people greatly as it should!

      It is not fair. It is very much unfair! And that us what differentiates Christianity from so many other religions. We just cannot understand that it is not about us. We cannot comprehend that we can’t earn forgiveness. It just isn’t right!

      Thanks for putting this one out there!

    • Sorry, grace isn’t exactly free. It’s even better than that. There is something we must give up for it: our sin! Jesus trades us his righteousness for our guilt. A bargain like that is even better than free!

    • Didn’t like your story because we “just don’t get it” when it comes to grace, or don’t care for your analogy, and think it does not translate well to the scriptural parable ??

      As many others have stated, there are big differences between “Brandi” and the source of her help vs. the workers in the vineyard, and the Source of their payment. It’s your assumption that the problem, the offense of the those who have pushed back, is a lack of appreciation for the extreme generosity of the Father’s heart.

  10. Robert F says:

    Christians have an interesting way of confusing the church and the United States of America.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      You mean they’re not the same thing?

      • Christiane says:

        :)

        if you take a look at SBCvoices, there are times when the Republican Party is seen as the ‘Christian’ party . . . and some want to walk away from that ‘connection’ of the SBC with the Republican Party in people’s minds, for the sake of evangelization, while OTHERS don’t . . . and continue to raise Republicanism on high because of the one issue: ‘pro-life’

        so they are themselves conflicted about political involvement

        it’s a real problem for them, and some foresee that it will lead them further along the road to decline as a denomination

        • Robert F says:

          As a mainline church dweller (the SBC isn’t mainline, is it?), I see the other side of the equation: the emphasis on social gospel spills over into an almost unconscious identification of furtherance of the Kingdom of God with making the USA, and then the international community, into a society where social justice, peace and material abundance prevail, as if that would usher in the Kingdom of God.

          There is an ironic similarity between that approach and the approach of Federal Vision theology and so-called Dominion theology.

  11. Did anyone consider the possibility that “Brandi” told a fictional story in order to enjoy the inevitable exploding of right wing heads?

    • Christiane says:

      that is a possibility :)

      if you want to paranoid, you might even think that she is a right-wing plant because her ‘story’ is a little bit TOO provocative for someone who is scamming the system and wants to keep that going :)

  12. I actually think this is a great analogy. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us – and how can we not see ourselves as a Brandi? Taking freely what was earned by another, while continuing in immoral and unjust actions? Which of us is without sin? Is a single drop of the Saviour’s blood not far to precious for the sin we squander it on? I don’t think the point was about a broken social system or distributive ethics. Rather, the point was that our redemption in Christ is very, very one sided.

  13. Robert F says:

    If I were a betting man, there are two things I’d happily wager: 1) that Jesus was not and never will be a Republican; 2) that Jesus was not and never will be a progressive. Not necessarily in that order.

    • …my only caveat is that I generally think Jesus would be in favor of “liberty and justice for all.” That may not make him a Republican, but damn close enough. :P

  14. Robert F says:

    Well, no one can become Brandi of Batavia, that would be just another work; but not to worry: we all already are Brandi of Batavia.

  15. Robert F says:

    “Brandi, you’re a fine girl.
    What a good wife you would be……”

  16. I think the scripture is one (if there are others) that David Barton uses to claim that Jesus was/is against the minimum wage (which of course is a real stretch.

  17. Jeff… I think there are far better analogies than the one you used. but reasons have been stated and re-stated above, so I’ll just register my disappointment with the choice you made.

  18. The cognitive dissonance seen in these comments is amazing.

  19. Dana Ames says:

    Late to the game, but vanity compels me to write…

    Being a huge N.T. Wright fan, and because I believe that the first principle of hermeneutics is to understand what the text would have meant to its first hearers, and not filtered through late medieval categories and questions, I have to say that I think the reason for the huge (though revealing) bunny trail is a lack of understanding about Jesus’ point in telling the story to his listeners, *the Jews*.

    Yes, it’s about God. The point of all of Jesus’ parables is Who God Is And What He is Up To. The background, not the point, is “the kingdom of heaven” (which is a pious Jewish way of saying “kingdom of God” by avoiding saying the word “God”). The “kingdom of heaven” was not viewed a destination after we die, but rather the conditions in and through which the true people of God actually live under God’s kingship/rule. A burning question for the Jews in Jesus’ day was “who constitutes the true people of God?” That’s why there were the divisions among the Jews – each group had a different answer based on different reasonings. So the parable is not about “grace versus works”. It’s about who God views as His True People: the faithful ones who have done what the landowner wanted them to do. They all get the same wage: the ones who have been at it the longest: faithful Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah-King, and the ones who respond later: Gentiles, to whom the message that Jesus is the True King of All will be proclaimed. (Naturally, some Jews would have some questions for God about his decision in this matter…)

    And there is, in fact, work involved. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you – that you love one another ***the same way I have loved you.***” Consider how and to what extent Jesus has loved us. That’s how every human being is supposed to be, since Jesus is Man as well as God. And that requires that we actually do things, of course with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, that “naturally” demonstrate our citizenship. It’s not about “what we do to get in” – that was not the concern of the Jews of Jesus’ day. They were already “in” by virtue of being covenantal members of the family of Abraham. It’s about who is the Faithful Person/People of God, who are following in the life of the True King.

    Dana

  20. George C says:

    I get the point you are trying to make (can we accept our poorness of spirit?), Jeff, but the comparison of the alleged caller and the parable is simply a poor one. The land owner paid from his own resources and the laborer actually did do some work.

    As far as politics go, the parable makes a better case for peoples’ right to do what they will with their own money so long as they keep to their agreements.

  21. Just realized what is going on Jeff. A very nice illustration not just of the parable of the workers, but of the entire parable principle: those who have ears to hear will hear.

    “Brandi from Batavia” was not a real person, or even a fake person on any real radio show. Your whole story, just like Jesus’ parables is fiction and (intentionally) misleading at first. I’ve puzzled over this one all day and finally think that I have got it. It’s not about the “taxpayers who pay for the benefits,” it’s about God and us.

    Why shouldn’t we enjoy the many blessings God gives us that we have no right to, even if others feel (wrongly) that they do have a right to them and we are taking “limited grace resources” away from the more deserving?

  22. Whether the story is true or not, there are lots of “Brandis” and “Katherinas” around, who think they are entitled to other people’s money. But that’s not what “charity” and “mercy” mean. “The poor ye shall have always” and the more money you throw at them, the more beggars you’ll have. The Social Gospel is anti-Christian.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      I’m more than willing to take on Katherina based on her actual statements, but there is no evidence to justify that she is “one of those people.” It is also uncalled for to equate the poor with beggars, or to stereotype the poor like that.

      I argued with Katherina about how she interpreted the homily, but that doesn’t meant that she deserves that kind of treatment in this forum. Her primary hangup seemed to be that she was concerned about stereotyping; you’re kinda proving her point.

      • I know her type. They love to put on a big show about how offended they are. Don’t feel bad–you did right to put her in her place. Pwned!

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          You don’t know her type. She was most likely carrying around a heavy weight based on years of unfair stereotyping and discrimination, and was looking for an axe to grind. I put together a series of reasoned arguments based on Scripture and a careful read of Jeff Dunn’s post, and after a while she stopped commenting.

          You’re trolling, Quinn. It’s not cute, and it’s not appreciated.

        • Robert F says:

          Hey, if you’re Quinn the Eskimo, how come nobody’s jumping for joy?

  23. Heather Erickson says:

    I thought this was quite thought provoking. My husband has stage IV lung cancer, and I have always been a stay at home homeschooling mother of 3. He is on disability, which had a 6 month waiting period, and we receive state health care. We are so thankful for both. Interestingly, it is the “Christian community,” who has made the most politically charged comments regarding these issues. This is very sad. My husband was a pastor without pay for 2 years until we had to close our church doors because he could no longer run the church. We didn’t get any going away gift or anything. People were upset that they would no longer have the church to go for, but we haven’t heard anything form our parishioners. I know that I am venting, so I apologize, but I find it Ironic. You know everyone has a story. Even though Brandi is fictional, if she was real, how would Jesus respond to her? Isn’t that supposed to be our response. So thank you for this homily. It was on the mark. There was one of those memes up today about the feeding of the 5000, and Jesus is saying, “But if we feed all of these people, they will only become dependent.” with the byline- things Jesus never said. Yo

  24. Well, this has been quite the hootenanny of a homily…..

    I can see that Jeff will be a comfort to the afflicted and an affliction to the comfortable.

  25. Jeff, it’s time for you to take a break from Capon before you make just as many enemies. :P

    Personally, I don’t think that, in the kingdom of this world, middle class hard working average Joes are the source of all evil in this world and should be taxed to pay for their white guilt. I think that in many ways over-taxation and system exploiters are a real injustice against those struggling to put food on their family, as Bush would say.

    But I can clearly see that isn’t your point. In the Kingdom of God, we are all beggars and freeloaders. Somebody else poured out his blood, sweat, and tears to earn us what we freely enjoy. Every sin we’ve ever committed, and remain yet to commit, as baptized believers, we pretty much just get away with. Because of Jesus. Thanks be to God for his indiscriminate mercy!

    • Miguel touches on some of the static in using your analogy. The Vineyard owner is being generous with what is HIS by rights, HE can be generous with what is HIS, and what will always be HIS. The U.S. government….well…… do we want to go there ???? Yes , every analogy has a gap, but some of the holes in this one are canyon-esque. I would add that another problem is trying to make the point made in a parable to explain MORE than what the parable intended: dangerous to extrapolate beyond the boundaries of what the parable is trying to teach.

  26. Jeff, I am going to have to take some major issue with the theology you are presenting here.

    That was when I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit.

    Really? I hope you are speaking metaphorically. You mean to tell me you hear a voice in your head imparting divine revelation directly to your cranium? That is dangerous territory, my friend. Those are televangelist type of claims right there. Couldn’t you just say you had an epiphany? Or that the Holy Spirit illuminated the text in your mind that you could see a truth in it that you had previously been blind to? Why couch your exegetical experience in such crazymatic terminology? Don’t get me wrong: I believe the Holy Spirit speaks to us, actively, through the written Word of God, but when I begin hearing voices in my head, that’s where I draw the line. Sure, God is free to use that method to communicate with us if he wanted to. But I am firmly convinced He is too merciful to screw with us in that way.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Dude, it took you two days to post on here? I was kinda missing your voice in the forum.

  27. I guess different messages have “seasons” to them. maybe there is a season for this homily. For me, the gist of Dallas Willard’s messages make a lot more sense. There is a big difference (or can be) between “working” and “earning”. To necessarily join the two is to not understand the terms, or deeper still, to understand how GOD made men and women and the universe. It is, of course, unclear from the parable given how Brandi felt about “work”, generally. There are some blanks here, but I’m not going to join the Brandi bandwagon, thank you. I’d say Dallas and many others have a better take on BOTH God’s side and ours.

    I’ll wear the “works righteousness” yellow star for this, I’m beyond squabbling about that.

  28. should have been “to NOT understand how GOD made men and women….etx” sorry

  29. Jeff,
    This is a little late to the game… so sue me.
    All I have to say is:
    “A-freakin’-MEN”
    Cheers,
    Justin