DayBreaks for 11/11/19: A Day in the Vineyard
From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’” – Matthew 20:1-15 (NASB)
The world has been going through tough times economically. Certainly it has affect you or someone you love. Jobs are hard to find. People are taking jobs that they otherwise would not have even applied for, let alone considered. I know people who would be thrilled to find a job at minimum wage right now. They would jump at the chance to earn any money. I’m sure you know people in that situation, too.
The story of the laborers in the vineyard has always been an interesting story to me. We have a sense of fairness that is built in us by God. As we consider this story, it is a good exercise for us to put ourselves in the place of those hired first and who worked all day for a denarius (the wages for an entire day’s labor). We would be glad for the work, right? We would feel a denarius was fair wages – so there’s no complaint there. But if we came to the end of that day and learned that people who’d been hired at the end of the day for just one hour got the same pay – wouldn’t you be a bit upset? Then, let’s place ourselves in the situation of the last-minute hires: we’d be happy for the work and pay and extremely surprised by the unexpected generosity when we received the wages for a full day. We wouldn’t appreciate the argument put forth by the full day workers – we might be afraid that they’d convince the vineyard owner that he was, indeed, being foolish and not thinking clearly.
The story is intended to make us appreciate grace – the grace that God has shown to us. It may be informative for us to hear the rabbinic version of the story. In the version told by rabbis of the time, the late workers worked so hard that they accomplished in one hour what took the other people a full day to accomplish – and they were rewarded for their extra-hard work. This, however, is not part of the biblical story. Jesus says absolutely nothing about how hard either the full-day workers or one-hour workers worked. That’s not the point. Jesus’ emphasis is on the generosity of the employer (God in the parable), who lavishes His rewards on both the long-time workers and the newcomers. As Philip Yancey put it: “No one gets cheated and everyone gets rewarded, far beyond what they deserve.”
PRAYER: Help us not to be envious, Lord, of what You give others nor to compare it to what You have chosen to give us. May we realize that we have no claim at all on Your goodness, nor any reason to expect goodness from You at all. Let us understand a bit more fully the depth of the riches of Your grace that abounds toward us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple. ><}}}”>