In the Western world we have a dominant worldview. An integral part of our dominant world view is capitalism, which is based on quid pro quo, reward and punishment, and justice as retribution. If I want X number of widgets, I will need to provide Y amount of payment. We are unaware of how this fundamental worldview affects our relationships, our basic self-image, and actions. Phrases like “I deserve”; “You owe me”; “I will be generous if it helps me, too” seem to dominate our conversations. It also gets built into faulty foundation for our relationship with God.
I won’t deny that this system of exchange seems reasonable to almost everybody today. I’m not going to say it is wrong—it does much good. It is the default worldview for a lot of us. The only trouble is, it seems that Jesus doesn’t believe that the Kingdom of Heaven operates on a capitalistic model.
In contrast to the “meritocracy” of basic capitalism, Jesus presents the economy of the Kingdom of Heaven - a gift economy. In a gift economy, there is no equivalence between what we give and how much we get. We don’t really like this model, because we feel we’ve worked hard to get to our rightful social positions. We feel we have earned our rights. We are often times like the angry workers in Jesus’ parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
Jesus’ parable can be hard for us. We wonder about what happens the next day after the landowner goes out to find workers for his vineyard. Will anyone agree to work the entire day if they think they will get a full day’s wage without working a full day?
Understanding the Kingdom of Heaven’s economy is hard. And unless we’ve had at least one experience of being given to without earning. It’s called forgiveness, unconditional love, mercy, and grace.
If we haven't experienced love that's freely given, without any merit on our part, we tend to uphold a capitalist perspective in which 2 + 2 = 4. However, we may harbor skepticism or even resentment towards anything offered without a cost. It's only when we start embracing the values of the Kingdom of Heaven, as opposed to the values of worldly kingdoms, that our thinking begins to shift away from the world's conventional mindset.
We don’t “deserve” anything, anything! It’s all a gift.
To understand the Gospel in its radical, transformative power, we have to stop counting, measuring, and weighing. We have to stop saying “I deserve” and deciding who does not deserve. None of us deserves! This daily conversion is hard to do unless we’ve experienced infinite mercy and realized that it’s all a gift—all the time.
May you experience God’s grace and mercy as you make your way in this world.
Pastor for Care and Community