To be very honest with ourselves and to truthfully look at the present 21st century surrounding us, we see that we live in a world pushing and tempting us to do great evils by the forces of materialism, consumerism, greed and sex. Because of this many persons do not have time or energy and do not have the desire to "seek God where He may be found. Even those of us who are trying to know and love Him and are trying to "Love one another" have trouble finding time for God and time to care for others. We are easily attached to the material things of this world, of which there are more and more each day. The evils which are exerting a strong pressure on us and on our society are:
The evil of being concerned for what we want now and for what we feel we "need", instead of putting in first place caring for others, especially the poor and the powerless;
The evil of accepting that it is alright for the wealth of this world (all of which really belongs to God) to be in the hands of a few, with the "dogs being allowed to eat the table droppings", as the Gospel of Matthew told us several Sundays ago;
The evil of accepting that capitalism and economic solutions are the only way to "the common good"; and
The evil of gathering more wealth and material goods than are necessary, rather than accepting in faith what Isaiah will tell us about not needing to spend our money other than on our needs (the "daily bread") of the "Our Father".
All of these push God and our neighbor away from us. They are stumbling stones to know and love God, as well as to "Love one another".
There are several sayings which point this out the true Path. One is: "A good government and a good society is moral and just". The other comes from a recent book titled "The Budget Is A Moral Document".
Look closely at our national and state governments today. A prevailing belief is that the individual must be allowed to accumulate as much as he or she can with little or no restrictions, such that a level the playing field and providing for the common good are eliminated.
Look at the big banks, the super large corporations, the huge amount of lobbyists and what seems to be the prevailing Faith today. These people and entities do not care about giving persons the wages and benefits to live a comfortable decent life. In an awful truth they are only concerned with increasing their "bottom line" to pay stockholders and to gain wealth for themselves. Paying stockholders is not fully wrong, but as it is now used it is almost impossible to even see the "common good". Conscience is absent to guide these persons and entities into providing for the "common good". They feel free to move to "right-to-work" states or overseas for cheap labor, costing individuals and communities their livelihood. They do not care about the disruption of families and communities here, which in the past were of great concern in our society. This leaves very many workers in the United States unemployed, under-employed and in a "race to the bottom" as to wages and benefits.
Now let's look at what today's Scripture tells us. We are again in Second Isaiah, mostly a poem of hope about soon returning to Jerusalem rejoicing. Yet Isaiah cautions us:
To keep on seeking the Lord where He may be found. We now more clearly know from the words of Paul that God surrounds us for "In Him, we live, we breath, we have our very being";
To remember that the thoughts and the ways of God are not ours to control;
To remember that the thoughts and ways of God are far above ours.
To trust that God will provide us "Our Daily Bread" - in Isaiah's words "grain, wine and milk without paying and without cost";
To not "spend money for what is not bread" and to not "spend wages for what fails to satisfy".
To be generous in forgiving others, which is also found in last week's Gospel to "forgive 7 x 70 times".
Isaiah here is clearly an idealist; but then so again was Jesus.
Paul writes to his first Church in Europe - at the city of Philippi in present northeast Greece. He praises them for holding on to the Faith which he taught them. But he also wishes that this Church of which he is so proud will continue to grow "in discerning what is of true value". This is to be a constant task for them. It is also a constant task for us today, tomorrow and every day of our lives. This "true value" to be discerned according to Paul and which we are to discern more and more is done:
by "love" in often doing good to others";
by "knowledge" in daily seeking God in the Scriptures, in Theology, in study, in quiet thought and in small groups; and
by "perception" in becoming "People of Faith" standing in awe of the Power, of the Mercy and of the Closeness of this God to us at all times.
Is Paul an idealist? Of course, just as Isaiah and Jesus were? People of Faith - including us - must be idealists - PERIOD. If we are not, we simply are not really "People of Faith". It is that simple.
In Matthew's account of the life and sayings of Jesus comes the very strange parable about wages and God's generosity. The first people hired at dawn by the landowner for his vineyard are promised "the usual daily wage". But those hired at 9:00, at noon, at 3:00 and at 5:00 are promised a "just wage". Then at the time for paying the wages, the landowner reverses things. Instead of first paying the longest workers who were promised "the usual daily wage" and sending them on their way, he tells his foreman to first pay those who worked less. This leaves those hired for "the usual daily wage" to stand around watching what they will be paid. The landowner pays those who worked a shorter time "the usual daily wage".
Now put yourself in the footsteps of those who has worked from dawn until evening. They had been promised "the usual daily wage". They expect more for all their work, a bonus, yet all they get is "the usual daily wage" they had been promised. I have often had trouble with this as it seems so unfair. But the parable is really about God and us.
It makes a lot of sense only if we realize that God is not a programed machine. God has His Own Free Will. He can and does treat each of us fairly, but He can also be more generous to some for His own reasons. As Isaiah said: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways...As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are My ways above your ways and My thoughts above your thoughts". God is very generous to all of us. But He can be more generous to some of us, simply because He is God with Free Will, and a Free Will so much greater than ours. We cannot limit God or His generosity. He does not go back on His promise to be just, which will always turn out to be superbly generous. But He is not restricted to equality because His Love is His and is so much higher than our love. God simply is Who He is and that should be enough for us.