Matthew 20:1-16

Thank God That God Is God (And We Are Not)

September 24 2017

            Some of you may remember, as I do, Chevy Chase when he was part of the regular line up on “Saturday Night Live”.  One of the skits he would do almost every week would be a satirical look at the weekly news.  He would always begin by saying:

“Good evening.  I’m Chevy Chase – and you’re not!”

That line still gets laughs.  

If I were to teach a class entitled Religion 101 one of the first lessons may be entitled: God is God – And You Are Not

            Maybe you remember the CitiBank credit card commercial from a few years back featuring   a guy telling of his family vacation. while scenes from that outing flick by on the screen. The family goes on a trip, stops at a souvenir tourist trap and the kids want a zillion pieces of plastic junk. The guy narrating sighs and states: “So I pay. I’m the Dad. It’s my job.” More vacation scenes flash across the screen. The family stops at a restaurant. After everybody chows down, the guy again concludes: “So I pay. I’m the Dad. It’s my job.” The concluding scenes go by with the family car breaking down and a mechanic coming out to fix it. Yet another sigh from the long-suffering father: “So I pay. I’m the Dad. It’s my job.”

Yes, sometimes we are in charge, it’s our responsibility, and the buck stops squarely in front of us. And although we may grump and grouse about those times, most of us kind of like knowing that we are in control of what is going on and what is coming up next. In fact, we like it so much that we tend to try to take over the reigns of control when we are clearly no longer qualified to be running the show. We try to act like we know what we are doing when really we don’t. We try to be in control of things we have no control over. At times we try to be something we are not, and usually we get in trouble when we do that.

The fact of the matter is that sometimes we even want to act like we are God. Worse than that sometimes we act like we can tell God what to do, or who to love and who not to,  or what is right and what is wrong. We are constantly tempted to,  as I like to put it —   “play God.”

Why are we so quick to  forget that God is God , and that we are not”?

Maybe we need to have a basic conversation with ourselves every morning. I recently heard of a minister who urged his congregation to revisit the conversation in John 1 between John the Baptist and the crowds when they asked him if he was the Messiah. John emphatically replied “I am not the Messiah” Maybe every day we need to look in the mirror and emphatically tell ourselves “I am not the Messiah!”  or “I am not God”

God is God – and we are not

        Over the centuries, forgetting this fact has led to countless tragedies, large and small, personal, national and global.
Adam and Eve thought they had godlike freedom, but they did not.
David thought he had godlike authority over who lives and dies, but he did not.

The Israelites thought they had godlike exclusiveness, but they did not.
Peter thought he had godlike loyalty to Jesus, but he did not.
Saul of Tarsus thought he had a godlike mission to wipe out Christians, but he did not.
The Romans thought they had godlike ruling power,  but they did not.
Americans thought they had a god-like manifest destiny over all who lived in the country they wanted, but they did not.

        Medical science sometimes thinks it can play god, but it cannot.
The bottom line is that God is God, and we are not. What that means is that we have no right to decide who God will love, how God will act, or what God will do.

He’s God. We are not. It’s His job to decide who to love, how to act, or what to do.

But that does not stop us from questioning God, does it? Sometimes we might want to question what God does, or look at someone and say: “Certainly God could not love them!” But – it’s not our job to tell God what to do, or who to love and who not to love, or what is right and what is wrong. He’s God. We are not.  

Let me ask you a question:

What if you got to heaven and found out that God had decided to let everybody in?

How would you feel about that? Republicans and Democrats, doctors and dope pushers, lawyers and lay-abouts, merchants and murderers, hookers and horse thieves.

How would you feel about that?

Certainly that will never happen! you might think. But that’s our opinion, and God might have a different opinion. Who God loves is God’s business, not yours. He’s God.  You are not.

David Leinenger is a Presbyterian minister in Pennsylvania who tells the story of some controversy that surrounded a First Anniversary  September 11 service in September of 2002 that was held in the town where he is pastor. It seems that they decided to have a community wide interfaith service to mark the 1 year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 tragedy. David was quoted in the local paper as saying the service would be open to all religious faiths and that representatives from many religious faiths would take part in the service. Well, he began to get letters.  A lot pf them. One read:

Dear Pastor Leininger, While visiting in Northwest Pennsylvania last summer (from my present home in Tampa), I read a newspaper article concerning your invitation to the Director of the Islamic Cultural Center in Jamestown to speak to your church members. A week or so ago, once again visiting the area of my birth, I read of the Warren Area Ministerial Association’s plan to hold a Sept. 11th memorial service at the Library Theatre. In this article you are quoted as emphasizing that “It will not be just a Christian service. Instead, it will help people of all faiths to ‘reach to the depths of their souls and their own understandings of the God of the universe.'” As a Christian who believes in the whole Bible as the truth of God, I strongly take issue with this position of yours. We Christians are to proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and none other! As you must know, Jesus said (as quoted in John 14:6), “…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The woman continued trying to tell Pastor Leininger who God would save and who God would not save. The fact is that she may have been trying to tell God who He could and could not save. But  you know  God is God and she is not.

God is God and we are not.

You may not think that you try to “play God” or tell God what to do or who to  love or who to save, but do you choose who you will pay attention to and who you will not, or do you choose who you will speak to and who you will not, or do you choose who you will feel sorry for and help  and show God’s love to and who you will not?  Isn’t that a form of trying to  “play God” or judge who God will and will not love,  or tell God who He can and can not love? Do you ever judge someone by thinking: “I can’t waste my time reaching out to that person, they are a hopeless case!”  Isn’t that a form of trying to “play God” or judge who God can and can not love, or tell God who He can and can not love?  Too many times  we “religious people” keep trying to “play God” and  judge who God can and can not love.   We keep trying to do God’s job for Him. And we don’t do a very good job of it.  

Maybe that’s why Jesus had  more trouble with and controversies with “religious folks” than folks who were not very religious.  In the parable Jesus told in Matthew 20 Jesus provides us with a glimpse at the difference between what God’s will is  and what we might want God’s will to be.  The landowner’s generosity is bestowed on these last-hired laborers for a reason known only to him. He does not explain or apologize for giving the same wage to everyone hired, regardless of the amount of time logged on the job. The only response the landowner has to the disgruntled first-hired workers is “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?”

Well, is God not allowed to do what God chooses with what belongs to God?  God is God, and we are not. Maybe we would not pay the last laborers hired as much as the first laborers hired. But it’s not our job to question why the landlord decided to do it the way. Maybe, if we were God, we would not love all people, regardless of who they were or what they had done or how they had lived their lives. Maybe, if we were God, we would not forgive all people, regardless of who they were or what they had done. We might say to someone: “I’ll never forgive you! You don’t deserve it”.            Maybe, if we were God, we would not show our love to all people or feed the hungry regardless of why they are hungry or  help those in need regardless of why they are in need or show love even to the most unloveable people.

But God is God and we are not, so it is God’s job to decide who He will love nd save and show love to, and it is our job to do what God tells us to do. It is up to  God to call us to love and care for all people, regardless of who they are, and it is only up to us to live the Christian life in the best way we know and show God’s love, mercy,  forgiveness, and compassion to all people, whether we think they deserve it or not. God commands us to reach out to all people with His love,  welcome all into our fellowship, invite all into our fellowship, and show His love to all people, whether they are people we would normally reach out to or not.

            God has chosen to show His love to those He has chosen to show His love to. He’s God. That’s His job. Our job is to follow God, not lead God. Our job is to show His love as He calls us to show it, not as we would want to do it. But here’s the thing — I am glad that God is God and that we are not. If we were God , if people were God,  if God judged us by the standards we set for others, we would all be in trouble. None of us would have a chance for God’s love or the salvation God gives us. The truth is that we all have been in the position of the laborers who were hired last but got as much pay as everybody else. The truth is that we all have been dependent on someone who showed us God’s love, even when we did not deserve it. The truth is we all continue to depend on God’s gracious love for our salvation.

There’s a story of a man who lived a wild life until he gave his life to God.  He finally attended Seminary and upon graduation was ready to begin his ministry.  Being a Presbyterian, he had to be examined on the floor of Presbytery before he could accept the call to the first Church he would serve.  While being examined, he talked about God’s love for sinners and how, in his ministry, he wanted to share God’s love with all people. Finally someone asked him if he thought everyone would be saved, and he replied: “I don’t know if God will save everyone. But I do know he saved me when everybody else had given up on me, and if he could do that, he could save just about anybody.”

            Yea. I thank God that God is God and we are not. God has freely forgiven us.  It’s not up to us to judge who else God will love or forgive or show His grace and mercy to .He’s God – we are not. Deciding who He will love is His job. Our job is to follow Him and show His love,  compassion, grace, and mercy to all people. That may not be that way we would do it if we were God, but that’s why I thank God that God is God , and we are not. Amen.