DayBreaks for 06/30/11 – The Parable of the Crazy Farmer
NOTE: Galen is on Sabbatical until 7/11. Until he returns, DayBreaks will be publishing prior devotions (that is, if Galen has access to the Internet!) Thanks for your understanding!
Matt. 20:1-15 – “1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8 “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.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12’These men 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.’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?‘”
Know this: given the time of the year (harvest), the fact that these men were still not working at the 11th hour would imply that they were lazy and shiftless and not very interested in work. But one thing is sure about farming and harvest time: when you need workers, you need them NOW. I doubt that they ran off to the fields after being hired. Sauntering would be a better picture, and they worked a very short time (one hour). Even today we resent those who don’t work very hard but who get a full paycheck. Can you imagine their amazement when they were paid the same amount as those who had been there all day? (It wasn’t the “short-timers” who complained – it was the men who had been working all day!) I am not an entrepreneuer. But this much I know about business: you won’t be in business long if you do such crazy things.
This parable, or one very much like it, was told by other rabbis during the time of Jesus. But in their version, what was praised and stressed was the diligence of those hired during the 11th hour – how hard they worked. But Jesus doesn’t mention it. Instead, in his version of this story, the emphasis is on the generosity of the farmer.
Listen to what Brennan Manning had to say about this: “Two thousand years later the Christian community is still scandalized by divine generosity. In one of his plays, Jean Anouilh portrays the Last Judgment as he imagines it: the just are densely clustered at the gate of heaven eager to march in, sure of their reserved seats, and bursting with impatience. Suddenly a rumor starts spreading. They look at one another in disbelief. ‘Look, He’s going to forgive those others, too.’ They gasp and sputter: ‘After all the trouble I went through, I just can’t believe it.’ Exasperated, they work themselves into a fury and start cursing God. And at that very instant, they are damned. That was the final judgment, you see. They judged themselves…Love appeared and they refused to acknowledge it. ‘We don’t approve of a heaven that’s open to every Tom, Dick and Harry. We spurn this God who lets everyone off. We can’t love a God who loves so foolishly.’”
Don’t get me wrong – I know that Jesus is the only way to God, and that only those who turn to Jesus in faith and trust will be in heaven. But can’t you see how this scenario could happen? Have you never thought about your years of service and faithfulness and how you have “earned” a place in heaven? (Of course, that’s not how it works!) Think of it: after all you’ve given up, how fair is it of God to save someone like the thief on the cross who with virtually his last breath acknowledged Christ? Would there not be some resentment?
For one, I am very glad that God loves so foolishly, that He is the crazy farmer in the story who chooses to lavish his riches on us. You see, the men who worked one hour didn’t deserve what they got – but they benefited from God’s gratuitous generosity and they got it anyway. And that’s the only way that any of us will get to heaven.
Copyright 2001 by Galen C. Dalrymple.
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