Laborers in the Vineyard

Consider the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (below). The landowner is God, who has infinite love to share with all of God’s children. Some of God’s children are different from others, we aren’t all the same. But no matter what petty differences we see in each other, God loves us all equally. This is hard for those who are like the earlier workers to understand because they think they ought to be given more than those whom they perceive as less pious. But as the landowner said, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” Infinite love belongs to God, and who are we to think we can tell God how to distribute love? God is merciful and gracious. God loves those who come to the field a little later in the day just as much as God loves those who were there from the beginning. Similarly, God loves those who humbly accepted the gift of acceptance later on just as much as God loves those who were whiny and judgmental because they though they deserved more than others. Our God is patient and forgiving, and we must learn from God’s example. We must try to avoid judging those who are different and stop thinking that they deserve less. We must learn to forgive those who judge us, just as God forgives. It is God’s love to distribute as God sees fit, and the Good News is that we all get the same amount! Some days, you might be like the earlier workers who are doing the right thing all along. You are following the speed limit while others have road rage and whip around you. You are the one who stops to help someone pick up their fallen groceries while others walk by and ignore. You are the one in the front pew on Sunday while others are at home in bed. On those days, God is well pleased with your actions, sure, but you know that there are other days when you are like the laborers who show up late. You accidentally curse at church when you stub your toe, you are in a hurry and don’t stop to give the homeless woman the dollar that is clearly sitting in your car’s cup holder, you are grumpy towards your family because you’ve had a bad day. And on those days, God still loves you just as much as always. It is on those days that we realize how grateful we ought to be that God’s love works this way.

Judgment is the root of violence and oppression, but forgiveness and equality are the roots of peace. Before you try to pretend that God loves your group more than another group, before you try to pretend you know that some people deserve more love or more civil rights than others, before you try to pretend that the citizens of one country or culture are less worthy of life than others, remember how thankful you are when you are graciously extended forgiveness– and then share that forgiveness with others. God does not need you to report who has been “good” and “bad” and who deserves what. This isn’t the north pole at Christmas time. The glorious reality is that you are loved. Whoever you are. No strings attached.

Matthew 20 

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage,[a] he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.[b] 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.[c] 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat. 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?[d] 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?[e] 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

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