One of my big dreams in life, the thing I believe I was put on this earth to do, is strategic philanthropy. There are so many problems in this world, so many people who are disadvantaged for various reasons, and I want to use the resources and influence that I have to make things better for those who are less fortunate. I believe that intentional generosity can go a long way in serving others and glorifying God. When I am following him and in a healthy place, I am generous and value sharing ideas, money, and resources freely. When I have drifted from God and have begun following myself, I am selfish and the scarcity mindset seeps in.
God is gracious and generous to us. He didn’t have to give us all of the resources and good things that he has, but he did. He didn’t have to provide to us godly relationships, vision, and passions, but he did. And he surely didn’t have to give us himself, the greatest gift we could ever ask or hope for, but he did.
“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.” Matthew 20:1-2 (NIV)
I believe there’s a misconception within the church about how we steward the generosity, kindness, and favor of God. I’ve met so many people who believe that working is bad or hindering them from fully following the Lord, but that’s simply not the case. God created us to co-labor with him while we’re here. The landowner in the parable didn’t pay the people so that they could sit around and consume his goodness, he brought them into the fields to work, knowing there’s a reward at the end for them.
This life is not easy, but we have been graciously invited to collaborate with God.
The parable continues with the landowner going outside again and again and again. Each time he speaks to a new crew, he promises them the same amount as all the others. Even those who are standing around at 5 PM, still having done no work for the day, are welcomed in and promised payment. He doesn’t shame them or ridicule them for having found no work, he just offers them an opportunity. At quitting time, the workers line up to receive their wages for the day, with the last ones first.
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘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.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:9-16 (NIV)
There are many times when I’ve looked at what another person was doing or what God provided for them and have gotten jealous. “But God, don’t I deserve _______?” And I’ve felt him kindly and gingerly respond to me that he is like this generous landowner who is able to steward his resources how he sees fit, not how I think they should be given out.
The world teaches us competition and striving as a way of life. We should be the best, we should be first, and we should win. We are taught to see others as a threat to our success. Because our resources are finite, we allow the scarcity mindset to dictate how we live instead of embracing the generosity of God for ourselves and others. Instead of celebrating the blessing or victory in the life of someone else, we can become jealous, comparing ourselves to them.
But the Kingdom is collaborative, not competitive. It’s generous, not stingy. May we live like it today!
How have you seen the generosity of the Lord in your life?
How can you co-labor with God and others today?