Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Lectionary Reading: Matthew 20:1-16 (NRSV)
Gentleness is described by Paul as a Fruit of the Spirit. It is a valuable trait to have. Anyone dealing with horses or dogs understands the need for a gentle hand in working with them. Are people so different?
By contrast, we seem to value aggressiveness in our society over gentleness. Aggressiveness is what wins the day in sports. Now that football season has started, we would never want to encourage our team to be too gentle. In fact, the opposite is true. If a team is seen as too "soft" the coach may have some work to do in toughening them up. In the old days, a coach might keep the team from drinking water in practice to help them learn discipline over the needs of the body. We have since recognized that to condition players in this manner is actually dangerous and not worth dying over.
Still, there are those who may consider this an unfortunate loss.
Aggression can lead to leadership. Sometimes we follow the person who "takes" the job. We may admire their tenacity and willingness to put themselves out there. These people are sometimes seen as "go-getters." After all, we don't want to follow someone who's not willing to lead!
Dominating another human being sometimes leads to hurt feelings. I've stepped on people's feelings many times as a leader - most of the time it was unintentional. I confess that sometimes in the heat of the moment, it wasn't.
What does a gentle leader look like?
|This dog could easily take this|
child in a fight. His assurance
that there is no threat allows him to be gentle.
I think a gentle leader is respectful of the crowd. A gentle leader isn't swayed by the majority if he or she believes that they are in the right. A gentle leader has a quiet assurance that we will all move forward together.
The parable in today's reading shows, I believe, gentle leadership by the owner of the vineyard. He is willing to risk his reputation among those whom he hired to make sure everyone has enough. These late arrivals had mouths at home to feed just like everyone else. The owner is willing to take a stand but he does so without disrespecting those complaining.
Gentleness is probably needed at home more than usual because we are kind of stuck with one another right now. There is less getting out and so we are getting to know each other better. Unfortunately, sometimes our worst traits emerge when we are stressed. If you have teenagers, they are still jockeying for position and maybe more so as the isolation time stretches on. Are you allowing them to grow into maturity or freezing them in time while all this is going on?
How do we speak to one another? Is it respectful?
Would you categorize it as gentle?
To be gentle is not to be weak. It is acting with an assurance that you can handle yourself. There is no need to be aggressive because there is most likely not a threat in real life situations. As we stay connected with God, we recognize that gentleness is a by-product of that connection. Maybe that's all the reason we need to re-assess its value.
Photo by Josh Ward via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.