That’s not fair! How often have you said that? It’s one of the hard realities we learn early in life. No one has to wait for adolescence or old age to find it out. You can learn it in kindergarten. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
Little brothers and sisters seem to get such special privileges. The things my little brother got away with! There were times when I really felt like the Parable of the Prodigal Son was some kind of Jungian archetype for familial systems down through the centuries. Of course that is not the way I expressed it when I was fifteen, but that is how I felt at the time, even though it was more my perception than reality.
It’s the way older employees feel when young whippersnappers come into the workplace and the older ones get shoved aside. It’s the way veteran athletes feel when rookies get drafted with multimillion-dollar contracts while the veterans have been slugging it out at smaller salaries all these years. Some coaches treat rookies differently from the rest, giving them special privileges the way we sometimes do with our children, employees, or students.
There was one coach who is said to have never done that. Once, in commenting on Vince Lombardi’s fairness, one of the Green Bay Packers noted that Lombardi treated every player the same: “He treats us all like dogs!” said the player. Some coaches are fair, but many are not, just as parents are not with children, employers with employees, and teachers with students. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
But it is often in the light of some injustice that we try and balance the scales. I love the humorous story of the truck driver, just a little guy, who parked his semi at a highway cafe and had gone in for lunch. While he was sitting there perched on a stool, three big, burly motorcycle riders came in and began picking on him, grabbed his food away and laughed in his face. The truck driver said nothing, refused to fight back got up, paid for his food and walked out.
One of the cyclists laughed sarcastically and remarked to the waitress, “He sure wasn’t much of a man, was he?” The waitress replied, “No, I guess not. He’s not much of a truck driver, either,” she said pointing out the window. “He just ran over three motorcycles!”
Now that you have a smile on your face, consider for a moment this passage from St. Matthew 17:24-27:
24 When they came to Capernaum, the people who collected the half-shekel temple tax came to Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
25 “Yes,” he said.
But when they came into the house, Jesus spoke to Peter first. “What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly kings collect taxes, from their children or from strangers?”
26 “From strangers,” he said.
Jesus said to him, “Then the children don’t have to pay. 27 But just so we don’t offend them, go to the lake, throw out a fishing line and hook, and take the first fish you catch. When you open its mouth, you will find a shekel coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”
What does Jesus mean when he tells Simon Peter that he will find a coin in the mouth of the first fish he catches? Rather odd isn’t it? On the one hand, he appears to be talking about paying taxes. But on the other, he raises the issue of even-handedness and fairness. Is Jesus being serious or sarcastic? Perhaps he is speaking in hyperbole. Or is there an important truth here that we may be missing that needs further investigation?
This coming Sunday as I continue my current sermon series, we will submit this passage of scripture to closer inspection and probe for the meaning, relevance, and application for us today.
Take a few moments and invite a friend to church with you this week. You just never know what a difference it could make in their life! I am looking forward to seeing you this Sunday!
See you soon!