“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…
“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.” – Matthew 20:1-2, 8-11
In our world, we seldom live up to the terms we negotiate. Sometimes, before the ink has dried, we want to change the terms and conditions to suit us.
We go to work for a company and agree to certain wages. However, quickly, we are demonstrating that we have been cheated.
In the above text, we are told about a certain landowner. He personally went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. Before hiring the workers, he and they had agreed to an acceptable wage for the day, one denarius. A denarius was the going day rate for a vineyard worker. Throughout the day, until the last working hour of the day, he continued to hire workers.
At the end of the day, the landowner decided to pay his workers. He paid those whom he had hired late in the afternoon one denarius. Those who turned in to work earlier in the morning complained. They figured that they were deserving of more.
However, the landowner reminded them of their arrangement. Before he hired them, they agreed to work for one denarius. They could not complain because he was being generous with his money.
Similarly, in the story of the Prodigal Son, the older son thought he deserved certain privileges from his father. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day also figured they deserved more from God. They expected that God would be more generous to them than He would be to the Gentiles.
Jesus used this parable about the landowner to teach the people because they understood the narrative. However, the intention of this parable is not really about day workers, a vineyard or a landowner. He was talking about the kingdom of heaven.
The story is about God and his grace and mercy. He gives to us out of his generosity. Yes, he gives us that which we do not deserve.
The landowner was using God’s standard in his handling of the workers. God’s standard is just. We cannot bargain with God for his grace and mercy, which comes to us out of his generosity.
In this parable, Jesus was telling the people that God decides who would be rewarded and how he wants to reward. So, do not think yourself special that you deserve more from God.
The thief on the cross received the same reward as the prophets of old. He was received into God’s kingdom immediately.
The person who comes to Christ moments before dying, has the same rights in God’s kingdom as the person who served God all his life. Even though we have served God faithfully, all our lives, we do not have a jump on other Christians. God is the giver. He will not cheat anyone. We will all get our just reward. Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Drive, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas; or telephone: 426-9084; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.