Thursday, September 20, 2012

From God's lips to your ears

Matthew 20

New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
I'm not a Christian, so I defer to others on how this passage should be interpreted. For my part, I find verse 15 instructive. Christ, the very embodiment of altruism, relies on the individual right to do as one wishes with one's own money to support his teaching. Further, He exposes the pettiness of envy. The grumblers were not wronged in any way by the landlord's generosity to others. Yet they took offense at a perceived slight and became ungrateful. There's a powerful lesson there for those who trade in class envy.

A related point: many liberals appeal to the concept of "Christian charity" to justify higher taxes (inevitably on the rich). They either don't understand, or pretend not to understand, that charity is a voluntary act. You can't force someone to be charitable, and you can't be charitable with other people's money. What these people are promoting is much closer to theft than charity.

And another: President Obama often insists that we need this or that government program because the Bible teaches that we are our brother's keeper. I'm pretty certain he's got this wrong. In the first place, I can't find the part in my Bible where it says I'm my brother's keeper. In the second place, even granting that we have a duty to help those in need, why does he take this as a call for bigger government? Government is notoriously bad at identifying those in need, let alone helping them. Individuals, on the other hand, are very good at this. Most people don't realize that poverty rates in America were dropping steadily right up until government declared its "War on Poverty." Since then, poverty rates have flat lined, and even gotten worse.

Ask not what your country can do for you, nor what you can do for your country. Ask instead what you can do for yourself, your family, and your community.

Oh, and keep your self-righteous hands out of my wallet.

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