Generosity More Than Fairness

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?
(Matthew 20:14-15)

What may appear unfair to man
To question it is not our place;
Don’t try to understand God’s plan,
Just trust the wisdom of His ways.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You too go into 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 thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, “‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into 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 and ending with the first.’ The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those hired first came, 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, 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 ones who were 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 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. 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. We must all 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 Lord, they will not only be just, but generous. 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).

Father most provident, we thank You for all the gifts that You bestow on us. We are Your unworthy servants, and we have no right to complain over our lot. We believe that You only have the best interest for us, and so we put our full trust in You. Amen.

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