In the Lord’s Vineyard

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

What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? 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.
(Matthew 20:14-16)

Though unfair at first it may seem,
Who can ever fathom God’s ways?
Not by merits are we redeemed,
But only by His loving grace.

“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 who were hired first came, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. Thus they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour, 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. If 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

At first it might seem to the reader that the landowner was not being fair to all of the workers in the vineyard. Why not give a little more to those who worked longer, or give less to those who worked less in accordance with the number of hours worked? But the master of the vineyard chose to put a higher premium on mercy over justice. He was more concerned about the workers’ needs rather than their deeds. Besides, there was no injustice done, only an abundance of generosity. Those who were hired first grumbled not because they were treated unfairly, but because of jealousy.

The lesson of this parable of the vineyard workers seems to be that all of God’s workers should appreciate His gifts, whether big or small. Submitting to His service is already a special privilege, and if we have served much longer than others, then that privilege of service should be treasured; and our enthusiasm for the Lord’s call should make us feel more fulfilled rather than more important.

Jesus said, “The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few; so ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest.” (Mt.9:37-38) In appreciation for this privilege of service, we should rejoice whenever we see the work of evangelization spreading because others have entered the service. We should even be glad to see them get the same or higher positions of leadership that we may have wanted for ourselves. It is those who have a large heart who welcome the recruitment of many like-minded Christians into the mission for Christ. They are also eager to share their knowledge with the “new arrivals”, and their success in mission work gives a great sense of fulfillment to their sponsors. Indeed, all who are servants of the Word of God should be praying to the Master to send more laborers into the vineyard, instead of feeling jealous when there are new members who are bearing more fruits in just a short tenure of membership in the community. Sponsoring new members to join our community is already a difficult task; getting them to serve the Lord in mission is even a much harder undertaking. If they get into the groove right away, that would be a big bonus!

Increase our Brotherhood’s membership, Lord, and enlarge our territory of service, so that we may bring more souls to Your kingdom. Amen.

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