“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion he sent them into his vineyard. “Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ And they went. “Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’ “‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied. “He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’ “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last” (Matthew 20:1-16, Common English Bible).
I am not going to tell the tale of a poor businessman. This story already tells it. If I learned much of anything during my tenure as a manager in the secular world it was, NEVER, EVER LET EMPLOYEES KNOW WHAT ONE ANOTHER MAKE IN SALARY. When I was working for a cable television company in Houston that his since been bought and sold many times and now the name no longer exists, I learned a whole lot about how not to treat the people I supervised. They were valuable lessons that serve me to this day. And, while there have been times in the almost 30 years since I left that company that the employees I supervised might have thought otherwise, I have tried really hard to live out the things I learned in this days. But, the one thing (really there was probably more than one) that I learned about being a manager from my supervisors was not to let employees know what another’s salary was AND do everything I possibly could to keep them from talking about it among themselves. That part was never a very easy thing to do in reality.
In the story the landowner goes down about daybreak to the day-labor agency and recruits men to come and work for him for the day. He promised to pay them a denarion, they typical daily wage for a worker. Several hours pass and its about nine o’clock in the morning. The landowner is walking through town and he sees more workers hanging around the day laborer’s gathering spot so he recruits them and promises to pay them what is right. They head to his vineyard. Again about noon he heads back to the gathering spot and recruits still more workers, making them the same promise. He makes one more trip back to the gathering place at around 5:00 in the evening and finds still more workers without employment for the day. He sends them out to his field.
The end of the work day arrives and it is now time to settle up with the workers. Now the land owner has the supervisor pay the workers. He instructs him to pay the denarion to ALL the workers, starting with the ones who arrived first. That makes the others excited because they make an incorrect assumption that they will get more because them worked more. Of course, as with most parables, Jesus turns this a bit upside down and sideways.
We almost always tend to make these stories, whether we are in the story or we are reading/hearing the story, about us. For those Jesus was addressing and for the workers in the story, that standard is absolutely true. When the workers who have been there all day find they are getting paid the same as the workers who only put in an hour, they are incensed. They are angry, because they see this as all about them.
From a business perspective, the landowner better have gotten all the harvest in that day. Otherwise, he may have found few willing to work before 5:00. That is why my supervisors taught me to never let employees know what another employee was paid.
But, this parable is not about business. It would have been told differently out of necessity. God tells the story this way because, probably by design, the landowner, who is actually God is a pretty poor businessman. But what God lacks in business acumen (and I again, I believe God doesn’t give a hoot about business), God more than makes up by being a loving Father. God loves the worker that comes to work at 5:00 as much as the worker who had been a work all day. Without the full day’s pay, how would that worker care for his family?
It may not seem fair, but love doesn’t have to be fair. And, since the scriptures tell us that God is love, that means God doesn’t have to be fair. Well beyond whatever we might deserve, God just continues to love us and bless us.
What have you received from God that was beyond what you deserved?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved