This post is a first person telling of two of Jesus’ parables. It is in conjunction with the sermon series I am doing on the Brief Statement of Faith. The focus this week of was lines 47-51:
Loving us still,
God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant.
Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,
like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home,
God is faithful still.
“But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’” – Matthew 20:13-15 (CEB)
Then his father said, “Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.” – Luke 15:31-32 (CEB)
You want to know about my Dad. Good guy. Amazing guy, really. We still work together on the family farm. We have spent more hours working side by side than I could ever count. I can probably describe him best by telling you a story about him.
We have some of our own workers that have been with us for years, but we’re in a seasonal business. At times, we hire day laborers to get a crop in or get the sheep sheared. You know how it works, right?
These guys gather around the feed shop at the crack of dawn and wait for work. Dad goes out first thing in the morning to hire them. I’m kind of glad Dad does the hiring because it’s hard thing to see guys left standing there. They seem so hopeless. When we take our guys back at the end of the day, some of them are still there. Most of these guys are living day to day. If they don’t work, they don’t eat – their families don’t eat. The wage is standard – a day’s pay for a day’s work.
At least that’s how it’s always worked.
A year or so ago, we had a tough summer: rain when we needed sun and sun when we needed rain. A lot of people were out of work, which meant more day laborers than usual. Dad started going back to the feed shop during the day and bringing more guys back to the farm to work. Sometimes he’d barely be back an hour before we needed to turn around and take everyone back to the feed shop. During the drive, there was sometimes a problem. You see, Dad paid everyone a day’s wage even if they didn’t work the full day.
I don’t know why he had to stir the pot. But that’s the thing about Dad, he’s not just fair – he’s generous. He called a couple of the guys out on their grumbling. Why should they care if he’s generous as long as he’s been fair? It’s kind of hard to argue with that. But sometimes, I think Dad is generous to a fault.
Yeah, I’m still working through this thing with my brother.
A few years ago, my little brother decided that farming wasn’t for him. He wanted to make his own way in the world. Well, he wanted to make his own way with Dad’s money. Brother said it was fine that I would get the farm someday but he didn’t really want to start living his life “someday,” so he asked Dad for his fair share of the farm now.
Dad knew farming wasn’t in his blood, so he put the farm in my name and cashed my brother out. I think Dad was hoping he’d stick around nearby, but he took off. Said he had some wild oats to sow. Funny, right, since he didn’t want to be a farmer?
Dad and I just kept working together. Dad got an Instagram account so that he could follow Brother’s journeys. He was seeing the world and living it up. I don’t know why Dad wanted to see those pictures. It was clear Brother was drinking too much and there were too many girls and who knows what else. But Dad said he just wanted to know what Brother was doing, to stay close to him. Sometimes my brother would text but even that stopped after awhile. It was like we were just somebody that he used to know.
Dad didn’t give up, though. He’d text and post pictures of what was going on at the farm hoping Brother would respond. He’d let him know when the family was getting together and let him know he was hoping to see him. What did he get in return? Nothing.
I’ll admit that at times, I was a bit jealous of all the sights he was seeing. I wouldn’t mind traveling a bit, but it’s hard when you’re tied to the land. I know Dad would have let me take some time off, but I could see how hard it was on him that Brother was gone. I just couldn’t leave him, too – even if it was only for awhile.
Finally, after we had no contact for ages, out of the blue, one of my friends said that he thought he’d seen Brother working this farm in Mexico. I thought, “How typical. He can’t stand it when he’s here, but he’ll work when he has to.” What’s more, he was working with the animals, which he hated here.
I guess I could have felt sorry for him. But it was hard. I mean, I really did worry about him. I worried that he’d get into trouble or get hurt. But my worry was nothing compared to Dad’s. It tore him up. Dad wasn’t ever angry, he was just sad – even though he tried to hide it. He’s always rejoiced when things were going well with me, and we’ve gotten really close. But there is always that hole that Brother left. Every night when we’d finish work, Dad would look down the road. I knew what he was looking for. I looked sometimes, too.
But I wasn’t prepared for Dad to find what he was looking for.
I was at the far end of the farm, working through some issues with our silos. Driving back, I knew something was up because no one was working. As I got closer to the house, it sounded like there was a party going on – and there was.
Brother came back and it was like he was the conquering hero. I heard all the noise, but I couldn’t go in. I just sat on the porch trying to get my head around it. Dad came out and was overflowing with excitement and joy. And I was happy for him, but I just couldn’t go in. I didn’t think it bothered me that much when he was gone. But now that he’s back – there are just too many emotions.
I took it out on Dad. Honestly, all Brother did was come home. I never left. I never turned my back on this family. I never hurt Dad like Brother did. I never got a party.
But I’m hurting him now.
As always, though, he seemed to know what I feeling. He said, “Child, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. We have to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.”
You see, generous to a fault.
I remembered him paying all of those day laborers the same thing even though some worked all day and some only worked an hour. The guys he hired later in the day were desperate and would have been grateful even for an hourly wage. It would have been fair to pay them less.
How can I resent my brother because he is receiving this generosity? How can I resent my Dad just because he’s generous? It’s just who Dad is.
I received my fair share –even more, really. I love my Dad, and I love this farm. To be honest, there is nowhere else I’d rather be or anything else I’d rather be doing. I know Dad loves me and is proud of me. Dad has provided for me in so many ways. He hasn’t really asked anything from me. And all he is asking now is that I celebrate that this brother of mine has come home alive.
I guess if I’m going to describe Dad, it is that he is fair and generous. He’s not just generous with things but he’s generous with his love and his forgiveness. He’s been faithful to me even when I haven’t deserved it. I want to be a reflection of my Dad: fair and generous; loving and forgiving. I want to be faithful and loving and generous even when others don’t think it’s fair. But right now, I’m really struggling. I’m going to talk with Dad for awhile and see if he can help me work it out.