Matthew 20: 1-16
Ez 34: 1-11/ Ps 23: 1-6
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?
Though at first unfair it had seemed,
But who can fathom the Lord’s ways?
Not by merits are we redeemed,
But only by the Father’s grace.
Jesus gave a parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn 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 idle in the marketplace. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you what is just.’ So they went. He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same. 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 who were hired first camae, 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. 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?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16)
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 them 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 His kingdom. Two lessons that Jesus imparts here are: first, the Father continuously seeks out the lost even at the last hour; secondly, it is primarily by grace that God 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. We must always be ready to grasp the opportunity for service, and rejoice in whatever reward is forthcoming. God alone knows the value of every individual’s service for His kingdom. But we can rest assured that when the rewards come from our gracious Landlord, they will certainly not only be just, but generous.
It is with hearts full of love and gratitude that we serve in Your vineyard, Lord, as we hold to Your Word: ‘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). Amen.
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