The Problem with Human Projection

Twenty-Fifth Sunday- A

Ludwig Feuerbach, the nineteenth-century German philosopher who greatly influenced Karl Marx, postulated that the existence of God, the idea of God, is simply a tendency of human beings to create an ideal being with all of our best qualities. In other words, God is nothing more than a person’s projection of a superhuman being who exemplifies everything we think is just and reasonable.

Feuerbach has never taken the wisdom of the Book of Isaiah seriously, which incidentally is our first reading this week. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

God communicates through his prophets the utter disparity between God and the minds of his creatures. St. Paul also reiterates the vast gulf between a human mind and God’s providence by repeating Isaiah’s teaching by telling the Romans, “Oh, the depth and riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?”

Both the Old and New Testaments show God’s will is often hidden and revealed through his Son Jesus, and when he speaks, we know what God wants us to know. Jesus, aware of the limit of human comprehension, often talks about God and his kingdom in parables to help explain what may seem very foreign to us at the outset.

The Gospel reading about the laborers coming late in the day and getting paid the same rate as those who worked all day provokes a visceral response to the lack of apparent justice. In the minds of those who work hard to support their families, only getting paid after a whole day of work, the latecomers who receive the same wage do not bring with them any sympathy.  When the landowner paid the same salary as those who worked all day, the full-time workers expected they would get more than their agreed wage; then justice would be served.             

“‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to them in reply. ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’”

If we view the parable through human experience, the parable is unjust. However, if we understand the parable through the lens that God’s ways are not ours, we can glean a treasure trove of insights from this parable.  

When we enter a relationship with God by baptism and become his adopted child, His love is irrevocable and complete. There’s no more to be added. The love of God is not given in increments or rationed, nor is it based on our accomplishments. For nothing we can ever do deserves the love of God. When we believe this to be so, all of the sentiments of injustice seem to fade away.

We can test our beliefs with a straightforward question. Can you envision the most vile and evil person you can imagine having a higher place in heaven than yourself?  If you can, you finally realize your salvation and redemption are all you need. Nothing can be added, and all your desires will be satiated in heaven with God, His Blessed Mother, and all the saints.   

When you believe God blesses you far more than you ever warrant, there is no thought of injustice or room for envy.   

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