Generosity versus fairness (Mt 20:13-20:15)

“But the landowner replied

To one of them.

‘Friend!

I am doing you no wrong!

Did you not agree

With me

For a denarius?

Take what belongs to you!

Go!

I choose to give

To this last

The same

As I give to you.

Am I not allowed to do

What I choose

With what belongs to me?

Or are you envious

Because I am generous?’”

 

ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς ἑνὶ αὐτῶν εἶπεν Ἑταῖρε, οὐκ ἀδικῶ σε· οὐχὶ δηναρίου συνεφώνησάς μοι;

ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε· θέλω δὲ τούτῳ τῷ ἐσχάτῳ δοῦναι ὡς καὶ σοί·

οὐκ ἔξεστίν μοι ὃ θέλω ποιῆσαι ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς; ἢ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου πονηρός ἐστιν ὅτι ἐγὼ ἀγαθός εἰμι;

 

This parable is unique to Matthew, as Jesus concluded this parable.  The landowner replied to one of them (ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς ἑνὶ αὐτῶν) with a sarcastic greeting of companion or friend (εἶπεν Ἑταῖρε).  He had done nothing wrong to them (οὐκ ἀδικῶ σε).  They had agreed to the one denarius pay for a day’s work (οὐχὶ δηναρίου συνεφώνησάς μοι).  They should just take their money and go (ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε).  If the landowner was generous that was not the problem of this day laborer.  He could give to the last hired what he gave to the first hired (θέλω δὲ τούτῳ τῷ ἐσχάτῳ δοῦναι ὡς καὶ σοί).  Was he not allowed (οὐκ ἔξεστίν μοι) to do whatever he wanted to do with his own belongings (ὃ θέλω ποιῆσαι ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς).  Were they envious with an evil eye (ἢ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου πονηρός ἐστιν) because he was generous (ὅτι ἐγὼ ἀγαθός εἰμι)?  In fact, they did not mind generosity.  They just wanted to know why none of that generosity came their way.  That is the problem with generosity.  The person who worked hard for a fair payment sometimes resents the generosity towards those who did not do as much work.  Why was the hard worker for the whole day not compensated more generously than the one-hour worker?  There are always two sides to every story.

What is better? (Sir 40:21-40:25)

“The flute makes

A sweet melody.

The harp makes

A sweet melody,

But a pleasant voice is

Better than either.

The eye desires grace.

The eye desires beauty.

But the eye desires

Green shoots of grain

More than either.

A friend is always welcome

A companion is always welcome.

But a sensible wife is

Better than either.

Kindred are for a time of trouble.

Helpers are for a time of trouble.

But almsgiving rescues

Better than either.

Gold makes one stand firm.

Silver makes one stand firm.

But good counsel is

Esteemed more than either.”

Sirach continues with his questions about what is better. However, here the answer is not wisdom. While wine and music gladden the heart, the love of friends is actually better for a happy heart. While the flute and the harp make sweet melodies, a pleasant singing voice is sweeter than both. While the eye desires grace and beauty, the eye, especially of a farmer, prefers to see the green sprouts of grain in the fields. Everyone welcomes a friend or companion in their house, but a sensible wife in the house is much better. In troubled times, family members and helpers can be supportive, but actually almsgiving helps you better than both family and friends. While gold and silver can help you stand firm, good counsel is better than both gold and silver.

The selfish misers (Prov 28:21-28:28)

“To show partiality is not good.

Yet for a piece of bread

A person may do wrong.

A miser is in a hurry to get rich.

He does not know that loss is sure to come.

Whoever rebukes a person,

Will afterward find more favor

Than one who flatters with the tongue.

Anyone who robs his father or his mother

While saying,

‘That is no crime,’

Is partner to a thug.

The greedy person stirs up strife.

But whoever trusts in Yahweh

Will be enriched.

Those who trust in their own wits are fools.

But those who walk in wisdom

Come through safely.

Whoever gives to the poor

Will lack nothing.

But one who turns a blind eye

Will get many a curse.

When the wicked prevail,

People go into hiding.

But when the wicked perish,

The righteous increase.”

You should not show partiality in judging others. Sometimes people will do wrong things just for a piece of bread. The misers will hurry to gain wealth but they will lose it in the end. It is better to rebuke people than to flatter them. Anyone who robs his mother or father, and then says that it is not a crime, is already the companion of a common thief. The greedy misers are always stirring up strife and trouble. If you trust in your own wits, you are a fool. Those who walk in wisdom come out safe. If you give to the poor, you will not lack anything. However, if you turn a blind eye to the poor, you will be cursed. Then this section ends with a repeat of what was said earlier in this chapter about when the wicked prevail, then people go into hiding. When the wicked perish, then the righteous increase.

The poor (Prov 28:6-28:7)

“Better to be poor

Walking in integrity

Than to be crooked

In one’s ways

As a rich person.

Whoever keeps the law

Is a wise child.

But companions of gluttons

Shames their parents.”

It is better to be a poor man with integrity than a rich man with crooked ways as was indicated in chapter 19. If you keep the law, you are a wise child. However, if you are a companion of gluttons, you bring shame to your parents.

Watch out for the loose woman (Prov 2:16-2:19)

“You will be saved from the loose woman.

You will be saved from the adulteress

With her smooth words.

She has forsaken the partner of her youth.

She has forgotten the covenant of her God.

Her house or way sinks down to death.

Her paths lead to the shades.

Those who go to her

Never come back.

They never regain the paths of life.”

The loose or strange woman was always a problem for young men. Notice this is specifically for young men, since there is no equivalent advice for young women to watch out for males who might want to commit adultery. This is an adulterous woman who uses smooth words to lure young men. Interestingly enough, the emphasis is on the wickedness of the woman, since the assumption was that the good young men would have to be led astray. She has forsaken the partner or companion of her youth for another young man. Actually that is what middle aged men do, not middle aged women. She has forgotten her covenant with God. She and her house would lead to death, as she lives in the shadows of life, not in the bright sunlight. Now came the big warning. Those who went to her would never return. Their whole life would be ruined. They would never regain the path of life. This was a strong warning to be aware of smooth talking middle aged women.

I observe your commandments (Ps 119:57-119:64)

Het

“Yahweh is my portion.

I promise to keep your words.

I implore your favor with all my heart.

Be gracious to me according to your promise.

When I think of your ways,

I turn my feet to your decrees.

I hasten.

I do not delay

To keep your commandments.

Even though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,

I do not forget your law.

At midnight,

I rise to praise you,

Because of your righteous ordinances.

I am a companion of all

Who fear you.

I am a companion of

Those who keep your precepts.

Yahweh!

The earth is full of your steadfast love.

Teach me your statutes!”

This psalmist promised to keep the words of Yahweh. He wanted Yahweh to continue with his gracious promise. When he thought about Yahweh, he turned his feet to Yahweh’s decrees. He hurried to keep all the commandments of God. Even though the wicked ones tried to ensnarl him, he did not forget the law. In fact, he rose at midnight to praise Yahweh and his righteous ordinances. He was a companion to those who fear God and keep his precepts. The earth is full of the steadfast love of Yahweh. This psalmist wanted to learn more about the statutes of Yahweh. So ends this section on the eighth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Het.

A deceptive friend (Ps 55:20-55:21)

“My companion laid hands on a friend.

He violated a covenant with me.

His speech was smoother than butter.

But war was in his heart.

His words were softer than oil.

But in fact they were drawn swords.”

Now David picks on one person, his friend and companion.  He had violated an agreement with David.  His speech and words were smoother than butter and softer than oil.  What a metaphor!  Butter and oil, things we like, were used to show the sweet talking friend.  However, war was in his heart.  His words were like drawn swords.