Okay, let’s get something out of the way. Sometimes the Bible is just weird. There I said it. And I am still typing so I didn’t get struck by lightning. But really. Sometimes when we try to take concepts or illustrations from the Bible and put them in today’s context…it’s just, well weird. I ran across one of those instances just this last week as I was preparing for youth group with our students. The passage is a familiar text to most of us. It is commonly referred to as The Parable of the Workers in The Vineyard and it is found in Matthew 20. But in verse 15 it get’s a little weird. The owner of the vineyard is speaking to the workers hired first and he says, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”. At first glance this isn’t that weird (and I just realized I have used the word weird a lot…I need a thesaurus). But there is a phrase in the Greek that stands out a bit if we go back to the original text and it is ophthalmos ponēros. Which the translators in the NIV labeled envious, but a more literal translation would be ‘evil eye’.
I don’t know what this sparks in your mind, but I almost picture a pirate or something with his evil eye staring down at me, ‘arrrr’. But that doesn’t really help us here. We have to look a bit more about what Jesus was saying in regards to the owner of the vineyard and the early workers. He is actually asking them if they are looking to do harm to the later workers because of his paying them the same wage. Now I don’t know about you, but this strikes me as strange at first. Why in the world would Jesus accuse these workers as wishing harm upon the other workers? But then I think about human nature.
We all have those people who we are a bit envious of, frustrated by, hate to be around, etc. etc. Maybe it’s someone who seemingly has been blessed more than you. Maybe it’s that person who has made a life of taking advantage of the system. Maybe it’s the person who just rubs you the wrong way because of the life they lead. But here’s the true rub of it…Jesus died for all of those people. And he extends Grace (unmerited favor) to not only us but to EVERYONE. I think sometimes we forget that. Sometimes in our desire for retribution or equality (really this version of fair is only about us coming out on top) we really want some people to get their just due. I think if some of us were honest we might even wish Hell upon some of these people…talk about an evil eye. But if God doesn’t want Hell for any of these people, shouldn’t we be the same way? Shouldn’t we be so consumed by Grace that we become instruments of God’s imbalanced economy? I know for me this is insanely convicting and I hope you and I can start to see people a little bit differently…regardless of when they start working in the vineyard.