Who's In Charge?
Shortly after our daughter Laura left to run a few errands, Gabe, her 4 year old, explained to me that when his mom is busy, his 9-year-old brother Domino (as he calls him) is the boss. I clarified that since I was older, that rule did not apply.
Pointing his crooked index finger at me, he said with much seriousness, “No, Mamaw, you are only in charge of yourself.” Suppressing a smile, I reiterated that my age likely outranked a 9-year-old’s authority. He shook his tousled head, pointed that finger again and repeated his edict. Fortunately, outside forces soon distracted him, and my authority remained unchallenged for the duration of my stay.
Reflecting on this incident later, I thought, “Don’t we all do that?” We want to be “in charge” of others’ behavior even when it is not our place to do so. As a young adult, the parable of the prodigal son was bothersome to me. That son squanders his father’s wealth, leads a disreputable life, then penitently returns – and look what occurs. His father throws him a banquet with all the trimmings! Where’s the justice in that? For a time, I identified and commiserated with the obedient son.
The gospel of the workers in the vineyard bears similarities. Some people work all day in the hot sun while others appear later at random times, especially those five o’clock workers. Then, the Master pays them in reverse order and the same wage! Disappointed, the full-day employees grumble. Unmoved, the Master replies, “Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?” It was no accident that the Master paid them in the order he did. God is showing us that mercy is preferable to fairness.
God’s ways are not ours. His desire is that we all be saved. Whether we spend our lives striving to follow His commandments, or convert in our December days, He waits with open arms. If you consider it, the trouble with waiting until later in life to convert is that “we do not know when the thief (death) will come.” Choosing to lead a secular life is playing Russian roulette with our eternal souls.
Understanding that idea, I accept that God is the one and only judge and paymaster. That frees me to spend less time judging others and more time monitoring my own thoughts and actions (which will keep me plenty busy). God asks us to be as merciful and generous in our view of others as was modeled in both of these parables. Our call is to pray for those who have strayed, strive to model a Christian life and, if the Spirit presents an opportunity, share the truth of the Scriptures, our instructional path to heaven.
However, there are times in our lives when we have a duty to speak the truth to family and friends, even if it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. On those occasions, we should ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in both recognizing the opportunity and knowing how to share our concerns lovingly. Parents, or other adults in a position of authority, also have an obligation to teach their charges the truth of the Scriptures, particularly when they do not match the values espoused by today’s society.
God’s rules are clear. They are not a smorgasbord of commandments which we choose from to suit our lifestyle. Our children deserve to know the Truth presented in the 10 Commandments and the Scriptures. In fact, in Mark 9:42, Jesus sternly warns of the dire consequences of those who lead a child astray, “…it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
The disintegration of the family we see today is a clear indication of what happens when the Truth is twisted to fit society’s mores. In one of his homilies, a local priest spoke fondly of his grandmother, a spunky, faith-filled woman who did not hesitate to ask her grandchildren, “Did you go to church today?” She let them know what was truly important. Isn’t that what God asks from each of us?
Kristine and her husband Jim Schroeder are members of St. Boniface Parish in Evansville. They have 4 grown children and 20 grandchildren.