1 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion [note: a denarion was a typical day’s wage], he sent them into his vineyard.
3 “Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ 5 And they went.
“Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. 6 Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’
7 “‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied.
“He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ 9 When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. 11 When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’
13 “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ 16 So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”
32 “Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights in giving you the kingdom.
Jesus told a story that said God’s generosity goes way beyond “fairness.” In the story, people who worked all day watched the landowner pay people who’d only worked one hour the same amount they had agreed to work for—and got angry. (You can likely imagine their pro-rated guesses of how much more they’d get.) But the vineyard owner didn’t cheat them. In sadness, he asked the upset workers “Are you resentful because I’m generous?”
Loving God, in fall foliage and spring flowers, every morning and every evening, you delight in giving to me. Keep my generosity growing, even though it will never match the magnitude of yours. Amen.
* R. T. France, article “Matthew” in New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994, p. 930.
I'm no good at interpreting parables. They always seem to speak to me in ways that they never would've spoken to their original audience... which isn't a good way to read the Bible.
But when I read today's Scripture, something jumped out at me that has never jumped out before. The workers that the landowner hired weren't all ready to work at the same time, but the landowner hired them as they became ready. When he went to the marketplace first thing in the morning, he didn't deliver an ultimatum—he didn't say, "Come work for me now, or you'll have missed your chance!"
He returned throughout the day to see if more workers were ready to participate in the work he had for them. And when the workers were ready, he asked them to come.
One of the truths that I've been leaning into over the last few months is that we're all on a journey in our lives, and we're not all in the same place. We're all learning and growing to (hopefully!) be better people, and we're doing so on our own paths. We can't expect others to be at the same place—to be ready to do the same work for the landowner—at the exact same time we are. Many were ready long before we were, and others are still in the process of becoming ready.
As we receive God's grace-filled generosity, let's extend that generosity to those who are not yet ready to receive it.
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