Daily Reflection
August 23rd, 2000
Daniel O'Reilly
Registrar's Office
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Ezekiel 34:1-11
Psalms 23:1-6
Matthew 20:1-16

Today's scriptures paint some interesting pictures.  One threatening, one reassuring and one confusing.  In Ezekiel, God is angry with the religious leaders who have been poor shepherds of God's children.  They have ignored the sheep and simply looked out for their own needs.  The Lord tells them that they will be held accountable for their actions and the Lord, personally, will search for his sheep and look after them.

The Psalm is one of the best-loved and reassuring texts in all of scripture.  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."  The Lord is our guide, our leader, our protector, our shepherd.  The Lord will take care of us.  Forever.  What a wonderful picture.

And then comes the parable in Matthew.  Confusing, contrary to what the world teaches and incredibly convicting.  I read that a recent survey revealed that the majority of Christians believe that the saying "the Lord helps those who help themselves" comes from the Bible.  Well, this parable shoots that idea down.  The workers who start in the morning and the workers who start in the evening receive the same day's pay.  How unfair!  A few years ago, my wife's sister's husband's mother (did you follow that) fell ill.  On her death bed, she confessed Christ.  My sister-in-law's husband, despite his grief over her death, was joyous that his mom had accepted Christ.  To my shame, my view was quite different.  You mean I go to church my whole life, try to be good and do God's will and someone confesses Christ with their last breath and their reward is the same as mine?  Puhleease!  Instead of rejoicing with my sister-in-law's husband, I became the self-righteous Pharisee, pounding my chest, shouting my prayers so all the world could see how good I was.  

In another incident, a death row inmate here in Nebraska was coming up for execution.  I watched an interview where he professed his belief in Christ.  I laughed, thinking "Yeah, it's crunch time now.  You've raped and murdered and now you think you can just say some words and get into heaven?"  As it turned out, this man had become a devout Christian, had established a prison ministry and had repented his sins.  He went to his death with quiet dignity and calm you might have seen with the early Christian martyrs.  The world says, "You have to earn it."  Christ says, "It's a gift, please accept it."  The parable in Matthew is a very convicting scripture for me.  "The last will be first and the first will be last."  My prayer would be for me to be less judgmental and to be open to God's guidance in my relation to others.

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