“He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’”
– Matthew 20:14-15, The Message
Are we just like those whining workers who objected to the boss paying everyone the same?
The violation of adultery and abandonment are extreme. They are injustices of the highest order. And that is not counting all the other treacherous things that came along with these violations (e.g. lost money, lost time with children, lost career, etc.)
It is reasonable to expect a spouse to keep their solemn vow to “forsake all others until death do us part.”
So, it is not surprising to me that faithful spouses have a strong response to such injustice. Anger is appropriate here. Boundaries were violated. The faithful spouse was victimized. Injustices were perpetrated.
These feelings seem to be heightened when it seems the cheating spouse (or ex) seems to live without any consequences for his/her sins. The faithful spouse suffers unjust consequences while the cheating spouse seems to or actually does prosper.
It’s not fair!
That is true.
It is unfair.
The wicked ought not to prosper. And the righteous ought not to suffer unjustly. But the wicked prospering and the righteous suffering unjustly has happened for many years.
It is a phenomenon as ancient as the Bible (e.g. Ecclesiastes 8:14).
Coming back to our text today from Matthew 20, does our cry for justice place us in the same camp as those whining workers? The context is these workers worked longer than the ones hired at the last hour but everyone was paid the same amount. It was not fair. However, Jesus tells this story rebuking people for whining over God’s generosity.
Are we whining over God’s generosity when we call for justice or fairness regarding our cheating partners or exes?
I do not think so.
Scripture is clear that we are answerable for our actions (see 2 Cor. 5:10). Plus, we only find forgiveness from God when we confess and repent (e.g. Luke 17:3, Hebrews 10:26-27, and I John 1:9). Also, even God’s forgiveness and eternal salvation does not assure us of avoiding real losses due to poor choices (e.g. I Corinthians 3:10-15).
The accusation that we are whining would be well-founded if we objected over a truly repentant cheater obtaining salvation.
This is God’s to judge. If God decides to extend His merciful generosity to a cheater, than who are we to judge? However, I simply do not see it in Scripture that an adulterous individual will receive such generosity while persisting in such sin (e.g. 1 Cor. 6:9-10). They may prosper in this earthly life; however, they will reap judgment in eternity for what they sowed here.
Yet ultimately, I would encourage us to aim to move beyond focusing on God’s judgment in these matters.
We definitely need to purge our hearts of these feelings pouring them out to God without condemning ourselves for feeling them. That is what I see David doing in the Psalms all the time. He was very prolific in crying out for justice and judgment for his enemies there. God can handle such feelings.
So, I would encourage writing them out to help you express your frustration and grief. Consider them your very own “imprecatory psalm” to God.
But my hope for everyone who comes here is that they make it to a place where they trust God with such matters. This is what forgiveness looks like when our cheating (ex) partners refuse to repent. We entrust them to God knowing God will do the right thing.
We no longer waste any energy on them…even negative energy.
Instead, we embrace the abundant life of living into the destiny God has prepared for us. They are just a footnote in the glorious story God is unfolding for us, even if it still feels like that story is not quite out of the dark chapter this very moment.