As a recent convert, I find great comfort in today’s reading of Matthew 20:1-16, The Workers in the Vineyard:
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
he found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘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 one of 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?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
This parable is about hope, and holds at least three lessons for me. First, it is never too late to find your faith in God. (Or Him find you.) While there is life, there is always hope. (This is one of the reasons why I do not believe we are living in the end times. I believe that as long as God can find one more soul, life on earth as we know it will continue.)
Second, this parable jabs at our human sense of fairness. It does not seem fair for a worker that only works for one hour to get a full day’s wage. God’s ways are not human ways. We should rejoice as God does when another lost sheep is found, no matter what hour of the day. Also, we should be grateful to have the opportunity to work for God in His vineyard, regardless of the length of time.
And third, we should not be comparing ourselves to other people. This is a slippery slope trying to keep up with the Jones’. Isn’t there a commandment about coveting your neighbor’s things? Our relationships with other people are very important, but the most important relationship is between one’s self and God.
Are you working in the vineyard today?