Each Called to Serve

Matthew 20: 1-16
Jgs 9:6-15 / Psa 21

What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Don’t I have the right to do as I please with my money? Why be envious of my generosity?
(Matthew 20:14-15)

Though unfair at first it may seem,
Who are we to fathom God’s ways?
Not by merits does He redeem,
But only by His loving grace.

“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?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us,’ 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.” Matthew 20:1-16)

Reflection

The laborers who grumbled failed to appreciate the generosity of their employer and show gratitude for their livelihood because they had a misplaced sense of justice. Who knows the landowner might have given them extra pay when they were paid last if they had not grumbled but expressed their gratitude and appreciation instead?

We cannot compare the world’s standard of fairness to God’s brand of justice. This is evident in the benevolent landowner who decided that a living wage must be paid his workers not so much for the length of time rendered, but more importantly for all to be able to support their family’s needs in a way consistent with human dignity.

In this parable, the landowner clearly represents God, and the vineyard as the mission place. The lesson that our Lord wants to impart here is that it is by grace that He rewards His workers, just as it is by grace that we serve Him in the first place. The question is not how God qualifies or rewards those who work for His kingdom, but how we respond to the challenge to serve Him when His invitation comes. Let us never compare ourselves to others in our work for the Lord. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (Rom.12:6). Neither should we be bothered that a “Johnny-come-lately” has assumed a more important position in the mission. We just have to be grateful that God has given us the opportunity to serve in His kingdom, and rejoice in whatever reward is forthcoming.

Try Me in this, says the Lord of hosts: if I do not open the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessings upon you without measure (Malachi 3:10). Yes, Lord, we are so fortunate to have a kind and generous Taskmaster. You alone know what each one of us is capable of; our trust in You is more important than all our efforts. Let Your will be done in all our works in this life. Amen.

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