Our neighbor owns a business, and my daughter has worked for him for the past couple of years. Thanks to him, she learned how to drive a forklift, use a zero-turn lawn mower, clean up the storage yard, and file paperwork. When she headed off to college, the work was handed down to my other two children. Our middle child started training, but because she already had two other jobs, our youngest stepped in instead.
When the time came for the annual Christmas party—held at one of the nicest restaurants in our area—all three were invited. (The one who is away at school couldn’t make it.) As the other two were getting ready, they confessed they felt guilty, as if they didn’t have any right to be there. “I only worked there for three hours,” one said. The other said, “I only worked there a few weeks.”
I couldn’t help but think of a story in the Bible where an owner of a vineyard hired people at four different times of the day. Some started at 9 a.m., others at noon, some at 3 p.m., and finally a couple more at 5 p.m. At the end of the day, the boss paid them all the same wage. The people hired at 9 a.m. started to complain. “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?’” (Matthew 20:13-15).
Now, in my story, the other employees weren’t complaining that my kids were given the same invitation—and the same feast—as everyone who has worked there for years. Still, it did make me think more about generous bosses and especially about our generous God, which was the whole point of the story in the Bible.
Maybe God made you part of his family through Baptism as an infant. For some of you, a high school friend invited you to church. It might have been your future spouse who loved you enough to ask you to read the Bible together. Maybe you heard the good news while you were sitting in a jail cell. Perhaps the terminal diagnosis finally got your attention. No matter how old you are, maybe you don’t yet think that Jesus is for you. After all, you feel guilty and unqualified, like you shouldn’t be invited because you’ve got a pretty long list of mistakes, failures, bad habits, and sins.
Well, this is the perfect time of year to think about that. Right now, many people who believe in Jesus observe what’s known as Lent. Really, it’s just an old word for the season of spring, but it’s come to be associated with the time when the church and its members pay close attention to the mistakes that keep us separated from God.
Because your God is generous, he didn’t want you to miss out on his good gifts. So he sent Jesus to live a perfect life for you, and then he punished Jesus for all the mistakes and failures and sins you (and I!) have ever done. Then he says, “You’re invited.”
And now it’s time to celebrate.
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who has never driven a forklift.