Reflection: God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways
Dear Beloved Community of St. John’s,
The prophet Isaiah teaches, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)”
This week’s scripture readings bear this insight out.
The prophet Jonah is crushed that God decides not to destroy the city of Nineveh, as he’d threatened to do. The people of Nineveh understood that they had sinned and repented, and God repented his decision to destroy tens of thousands of people for their crimes. Jonah is crestfallen that God changed his mind, and he stomps off in disgust. God continues the conversation with Jonah, teaching him that God looks at sin and redemption in a divine way, and not a human way. Jonah still wants retribution, and blessedly, God is far more forgiving than is mere mortal.
In Jesus’ teaching about the day laborers, all of whom get a full days’ wage, whether they began work in the morning or in the late afternoon, we again are left trying to make sense of God’s generosity. A human sense of fairness equates labor with pay in an exact correspondence. God instead calibrates pay with need. All the laborers need a full day of pay in order to take care of their families. God knows that, and demonstrates generosity because God’s ways are not our ways.
Both of these stories should teach us that we human beings are not yet ready to take charge of the earth. God has more teachings that we need to learn, including the fundamental truth about godly forgiveness and generosity. I suspect we’re often like Jonah: we’re still a little miffed that God doesn’t see things our way. But that is the difference between God and us.