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  • Pastor Jim Gronbeck (Retired)

“Fuzzy Math”

I first heard the term ‘fuzzy math’ a few years ago. It referred to different ways that folks were coming up with economic figures. One side had the numbers saying one thing, the other side had a completely different take on the same numbers. The term ‘fuzzy math’ I believe was coined from this disagreement.

Math was not my strong-suit in school. I didn’t enjoy it. I found higher math frustrating. So I took as little as I could during my school years. I found more joy in English and especially in History. My math skills could have been termed ‘fuzzy.’ Fortunately, my kids took after their mom as far as math goes!

Math seemed to be important in the Bible throughout the years. We know of Noah and the pairs of animals, Moses and the 10 Commandments, The 12 Tribes of the Hebrews, and so on. Jesus used a much different means of counting what was important. Jesus praised the woman who put in a couple small coins into the temple treasury as opposed to the bags full of coins the wealthy were giving. Jesus left the 99 sheep in search of the 1 lost sheep. He praised Mary for pouring expensive oil on His feet—oil that could have been traded in for lots of money to feed the poor. Jesus, it appears, was known for His ‘fuzzy math.’

Fuzzy math is exacerbated in today’s Gospel when Jesus tells the parable about the landowner who paid the same amount of money to workers for just one hour’s work as He did to those who worked all day long. There was a lot of grumbling going on when it came time for the landowner to pay the workers. The excitement is magnified for the ones who were there all day when they saw the last ones hired getting a full day’s wages. They must have been thinking they were in for a big pay day!

Then, when everyone was paid the same, the all-dayers blew a gasket! How could they get paid the same as the ones who were just there for a short time? What kind of justice is that? What kind of math skills did that landowner possess?! How does 1 hour of work equal 1 denarius, and 12 hours of work equals 1 denarius?

Fortunately, our council and our office manager, Mitzi, don’t operate this way! Today during our Annual Meeting, you will have a chance to examine and vote on the budget for next year. Please note the hard work that went into creating the budget by our Finance committee. The Council under Orlynn’s leadership also struggled with the budget during this strange year. But with so many variables in society right now, it was hard to come up with a solid budget. Orlynn will get into that later, I don’t want to steal his thunder. But it’s not ‘fuzzy math!’ It will take all of us, not just those here today, to make the church function as it was before this pandemic shutdown.

The common theme running through our lessons today and through the Gospel stories as a whole, is the theme of ‘grace.’ Grace is often referred to as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace is the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is free for us because there is nothing we can do to earn Christ’s favor, there is nothing we have done that will keep us from being forgiven and loved by Christ as well. Free and undeserved. That is God’s Grace.

Grace was message in the story from Jonah when God worked so hard to get Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. It worked for the Ninevites, and that is what irked Jonah so much. It was fuzzy math to the max for Jonah. The Ninevites were known for their evil behavior and Jonah wanted them punished. But he knew that God would give them another chance—grace.

Paul also tells the Philippians of God’s grace as he urges them to live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ—the grace we all have received.

Most of us are used to the concept that if we do something, we will get something in return. If we work, we will get paid. If we pay for an item, we will get the item.

This follows through with our faith relationship. If we are good boys and girls, God will like us. If we go to church, God will like us. If God likes us, then God will save us.

God’s Fuzzy Math throws this all upside down. God says, “Nope. I sent Jesus to suffer and die in your place. I raised Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday—for you. You didn’t earn it, nor did you deserve it.” That is grace.

When bad things happen, there are folks who think it is God getting even with us or punishing us because of our sin. Sure, our sin makes God sad, even angry. Our sins have consequences that we or others must live with. But God isn’t punishing us with wildfires, hurricanes, or the Coronavirus because we are such horrible people. That’s not how God works, and that’s not how grace works, fortunately for us.

God’s grace through this parable teaches us that we are all valued in God’s eyes. No one person, one country, one race, or one denomination is better than another to God. Jesus loves us and died for us all. The topsy-turvy world of the Kingdom of Heaven is what Jesus says in the final sentence today: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” We can only give thanks and praise God in Christ Jesus that there is a place in the Kingdom for us. That’s the real grace here. It’s not who else is allowed into the Kingdom, but it’s that we are allowed in—given a free pass in.



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