As a child of the late 80s/early 90s, I have vivid memories of the early days of Nickelodeon. You remember the “You Can’t Do That on Television” era, don’t you? Though I grew up in The Episcopal Church, may parents weren’t the new age hippies you might expect them to be. Rather, there were very strict television rules in our house: No “YCDToTV” or “Ren and Stimpy” and certainly no MTV. One of the shows I could watch was “Kid’s Court,” which was, as you might have guessed, a play on the perennially popular “People’s Court.” Each episode featured a couple of “cases” in which children would write in seeking to settle a dispute with parents, siblings, etc. The case would be “decided” by a very unruly courtroom audience which would scream for the side of the argument they thought should win.
What I remember most vividly however, was at the end of each episode when the host would run around the audience getting kids to offer a brief complaint about life in their households.
“My mom always makes me wash the dishes while my brother plays Nintendo.”
“My dad never lets me help fix the car other than holding the flashlight.”
My parents went on a cruise and left me with my grandparents who smell like moth balls.”
Afterwards, the host would shout “Fair or Unfair?” and the audience would shout back their vote. Obviously, all three of the above named complaints are “Unfair!” I can’t help but read the story of the Prodigal Landowner without thinking about Kid’s Court. “He payed everyone the same wage: Fair or Unfair?”
In this parable, Jesus invites us to reconsider our understanding of fairness in light of the Kingdom of Heaven. Reflecting back on last week’s lesson, if I’ve been forgiven a debt of 150,000 lifetimes, what right do I have to complain that another has been forgiven 1,500,000 lifetimes? Or what right does someone who has been forgiven 15,000 lifetimes have to complain about me. The promise of God is eternal life through his Son. Whether we start that life at age 8 or 88, it doesn’t really matter. Whether we “sin boldly” or live piously, it doesn’t really matter. Whether we are first and last or last and first, it doesn’t really matter. Whether we think it is unfair or not, it doesn’t really matter.
The Kingdom of Heaven is the Kingdom of Heaven precisely because it is unfair. Unfair enough to include me, and unfair enough to include you, too.