August 9, 2020


By Glenn

Matthew Chapter 20 starts with a parable about workers’ pay.  An owner agrees to pay everyone a denarius at the start of the day.  He then hires more workers periodically throughout the day, even when there was little daylight left.

When it is time for the paycheck, the last hired were paid first.  They received a denarius for their effort.  The workers who were hired first grumbled.  They too had received a denarius for their effort.   The early workers thought they were treated unfairly by the owner’s generosity.

The owner retorted, “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?”

Why does generosity provoke such envy?  The workers hired at the end of the day wanted to work, but they could find none.  They too needed a wage large enough to pay their rent and feed their families.

This parable is not behind us.  A friend of mine, Stanley, wrote me an email recently relaying just such a story.  He passed on the experiences of “people who helped someone pay for their groceries in line at Walmart or wherever. The point of all the stories was that the person who helped their neighbor was later scolded or belittled by a family member or friend for allowing themselves to be duped or scammed.”

The giver never felt scammed.  One wrote, “If you’re scamming me for Tyson chicken and apple juice  and cauliflower, then just take my money.”

After 2000 years of Christian teaching on the virtue of generosity, why does the jealousy of the poor still permeate our society?   One big reason is the millions are spent every year during elections to generate envy. 

Ronald Reagan showed the way.  He spurred a conservative revolution around the false idea of the undeserving poor.  Reagan conservatives blamed poor people for our budget problems.  Reagan argued the rich were suffering at the hands of the poor.

As I write about this, millions of Americans are losing both the unemployment benefits and their eviction protections.  Donald and Mitch McConnell believe our disaster relief package has been too generous.  Without suffering the unemployed will never experience the hunger for a job. 

This message resonates with conservative voters.  Why should America extend a generous hand to those without a job?  Conservatives constantly preach that they want a Christian nation.  They don’t. 

Every time someone talks about policies based on love and generosity, conservatives grumble just like the workers in the field.  Like the hypocrites they want to bang the gong of prayer in public schools or stone our LGBTQ neighbors.  Generosity is a virtue to be proud of. 

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