But is there increasing and decreasing in the Kingdom of Heaven?

Here’s what’s going on with me: I’m just completely stuck on John chapter 3, verse 30: “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.” Because [as Jesus says] the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who go out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard; and they agree for the usual daily wage. And you all know the parable — Matthew chapter 20: 1 – 16 — the landowner ends up hiring all day long and paying everyone the same, sending them all into the vineyard. The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t have ranks, yes? maybe?

I’ve been learning it by heart and as completely as I can in preparation for being lay reader next Sunday. This is a parable I’ve loved from the first time I heard it when I was in my thirties and a brand-new Christian. I took it to mean that Jesus will treat me just the same as someone who was born a Christian — he isn’t “counting”, he is “loving”. And even now when I read it, I hear it with such joy.

So if the Kingdom of Heaven is like this — not counting, just loving, then as natural and normal and proper as it for John the Baptist to decrease, well maybe something else is really going on. Or supposed to be going on. Because the Kingdom of Heaven is not about rank. Not about numbers. Not about lack. It’s about abundance — there will be fruit for all, work for all, a day’s reward for all, generosity more than we deserve.

So — I’m sadly stuck on the whole decrease thing. As joyful as the Baptizer was — he was as joyful as the best man at a wedding — perhaps he was wrong a little bit. Can things change without it being about loss?

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