Verse: Matthew 20:1-16
“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 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.”
The moral of the story here is definitely “wait around and do just a little bit of work at the end“, right?
This story made me so angry as a teenager. I really felt like justice hadn’t been done. I could see myself as the worker who labored all day, completely irritated that someone who worked for far less time would receive the same pay.
It really spoke to the state of my heart. I felt that way for a long time, on into adulthood, whether or not I was willing to knowledge it. I know now how poisonous comparison can be. Jesus hit the nail right on the head, when he asked the jealous worker are you envious because I am generous? That was the truth of it. At least that’s where I see myself in this parable.
I think about the question that the owner of the Vineyard asked to the latest workers hired- “why are you still standing around?“- and the answer that was given. It never satisfied me, but why not? I always thought it meant that these workers were lazy, but I don’t think so. I think about the Great Depression here in the US, and how men would stand around, far too many to be hired, desperate to feed their families. Perhaps this was a similar situation. I think Jesus’ compassion is on display. And who are we to question that? Who are we to ever question his motivations? Of course we have no right. But also, it’s not my business WHY the workers were still standing there. The agreement between the landowner and the last hired is entirely between them. That can be a hard pill to swallow.
God has been so good and generous with me. I am sitting in my car, just after grocery shopping, and I didn’t go crazy, but I’m still amazed at the wealth of food sitting here. Whatever others might have, I am fortunate. It does my heart no good to compare my situation with others. God alone knows what others need, what they deserve, and it’s not my job to figure it all out. It’s my job to do what I agreed to do. To follow and love my God, and love those around me. The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who is generous, who knows what his workers need, and who will do the things he has promised to do.
Sometimes the whole “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” thing throws me. But I believe it just goes back to our heart’s motivation. Are we trying to position ourselves ahead of others? That isn’t going to work for Jesus. Are we looking to be faithful and serve in the capacity we feel God nudging us? That’s where he needs us. And that’s where blessings are found, even though we don’t always see it.
Thank You, Jesus, for inviting us to be a part of your kingdom. To partner with you in the work. You never leave us alone there. Help us to see you and feel your presence along side of us. Help us to trust your judgement, your timing, and your plan. Amen
Author: Emily Costa