Our scripture this week is Matthew 20:1-16.
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
In this lesson, the landowner says “I am not being unfair to you”. His agreement with the workers was to pay them a sum for the day’s labor. The problem occurs when they see others receive the same sum for less work and they feel cheated because of it.
In the story of the Prodigal Son we see a similar lesson. The elder son is upset that his father forgives and restores the wayward son to his place in the family. He feels that is unfair to him, having been there and worked the whole time.
Our problem with this is that we view it in terms of compensation – it’s not! God isn’t paying us for anything we’ve done. It’s the blessing of salvation that we can’t possibly earn and it can’t be divided or multiplied. We can’t be saved any more or any less!
Loving Lord, our understanding is incomplete and we often jump to the wrong conclusions. Help us to see that Your love and justice are given equally to all of us, no matter who we are. Amen.