This is Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation from September 2 titled "Everything is a Gift":
Another familiar parable is the story of laborers who arrive at the last hour and get paid as much as the ones that began work at the first hour. Let’s be honest: None of us who are “worker-bees” appreciate this story. All of us would think that if we bore the burden of the day’s heat working then we would deserve more than someone else. Yet this passage makes it clear that the landowner promised them what was fair, they agreed to the deal, and he gave them the usual wage.
We call this reaction a sense of entitlement. Many Americans have it, especially if we grew up rather comfortable. When we grow up comfortable, we think we deserve. We think we have a special right. We would be offended if we didn’t get our bonus or our raise. We all think we deserve just a bit more; this really creates a high degree of unhappiness and anger in our society. Of course, Jesus always turns everything on its head, ending with the punch line: “Those that you think are the last might well be first” (Matthew 20:16). We’d better be ready to be surprised. The way most of us measure things—especially if we are privileged and comfortable—demonstrates that we might in fact not love God at all, but just ourselves.
There’s only one way to get us out of this meritocracy and entitlement. Once in our lives we have to experience undeserved love at a deep, gut level. Where we didn’t merit it, we weren’t worthy of it; in fact we were unworthy of it, and we got it anyway. That’s called mercy. Only the experience of divine mercy breaks down this entire way of counting. And that’s what we do—we’re all counters. We are! We think to ourselves, “You gave this much, so you deserve this much.”
Every such expectation is a resentment waiting to happen. When we expect, we’re soon going to resent it when we don’t get what we think we deserve. So, what the Gospel says is “Stop expecting!” Entitlement is lethal for the soul. Everything is a gift—one hundred percent pure gift. The reason any of us woke up this morning had very little to do with us and everything to do with God. All twenty-four hours today are total gift. And so, the only real prayer is to say “Thank you!” and to keep saying it. When our prayer is constantly “Thank you,” and we know we deserve nothing, and that everything is a gift, we stop counting. Only when we stop counting and figuring out what we deserve, will we move from the world of merit into the wonderful world of grace. And in the world of grace, everything is free.
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