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Bible Study Guide for Sunday September 20, 2020

September 17, 2020

● Exodus 16:2-15

● Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

● Philippians 1:21-30

● Matthew 20:1-16

For me, Jesus’s parable of the landowners and workers has always been about our desire to satisfy our abstract notions of fairness. Treating others fairly ourselves is always a laudable goal, and, certainly, we need speak out if we see others being treated unfairly. However, when our sense of fairness is offended because we witness someone receiving benefits through the grace of another, we are on much shakier moral ground.

A modern day corporate example of this parable is the case of a digital payments company where the owner decided to cut his own pay and institute a minimum wage of $70,000 per year for all employees. Two higher paid employees resigned in protest saying that such a high minimum wage was unfair to the “more valuable” employees even though no one other than the owner received a pay cut. Despite speculation that “overpaying” his workers would make them lazy, the owner quickly found that his employees were happier, more productive, and the company’s profits continued to soar.

Aside from work and pay, however, the arena of society perhaps most intimately tied to the concept of fairness is the criminal justice system. In the past decade, there has been a large and organized movement to decriminalize non-violent crimes and to lower harsh sentences. Some even fight for the abolition of prison altogether. However, critics of these efforts say that justice must be served even when presented with data that suggests that harsh punishments do not serve anyone’s best interests. Some of these arguments are not made in good faith, but there are plenty of well-intentioned people who demand that justice be satisfied.

In her book, Until We Reckon, author Danielle Sered uses a victim-centered approach to urge readers to shift their justice focus from punishment of criminals to restorative efforts aimed at healing communities. Citing research and her own experience leading a restorative justice organization, Sered argues that focusing less on punishment will not only create a better life outcome for those who commit crimes, but also a better outcome for the victims of crime and society at large.

As Christians, we are called to aid Jesus in his mission to reconcile all things to himself and to repair a broken world. Often, God’s kingdom is furthered via a cry for justice. However, in some situations, it is built with bricks of grace and forgiveness. Rather than making an idol of fairness, we must be discerning so that God’s grace can flow.

● How does pride play into what we think others are owed?

● When are “the good” and “the fair” in alignment? When are they not in alignment?

● How is possible that God is both full of justice AND mercy?

Author: Ryan Newberry


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