They all received the usual daily wage! Whether their work day began at 5:00 p.m. or at the crack of dawn, they all got paid the same amount.
It hardly seems like good business practice to treat employees in this manner, but the landowner is clear: “My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?”
The Kingdom of God, as this parable illustrates, really gives us the potential to live in the realm of Christ as a win-win situation. The win-win situation is not a popular notion for those of us who are more accustomed to living in a highly competitive world. So often our value and self worth is based on our earnings and not on the ways that we experience unmerited, unearned generosity.
Even more, we live in a world which so often promotes a sense that “might makes right.” Jesus gives us a different value system. In the Kingdom only “right makes right.” We fail to see this truth when we are more concerned about getting ahead of our neighbor, or fellow vineyard worker. We have a difficult time seeing God’s generosity when we live our life in a competitive stance.
This parable of the vineyard immediately follows a scene in which the disciples ask Jesus how they are going to get to heaven. Jesus reminds them of the commandments, and then goes on to say that they must sell all that they have and give to the poor. Realizing how many possessions they had, and how difficult it would be to be a real follower of Jesus, and in a question of desperation they ask, “Then who can be saved?”
Ah, now they are starting to get it. For human beings, Jesus says, it is impossible, but for God all things are possible. Yep, it’s a win-win situation for those who understand that salvation is not dependent on us, but on God.
It’s an issue of God’s generosity, not our pride-filled attitude of earning what we think is an honest wage. Justice is determined by God!
In her book, Dogspell: A Dogmatic Theology of the Abounding Love of God, Mary Ellen Ashcroft explores the love of God using the image of a dog. She humorously notes in her Introduction that everyone has heard about the agnostic dyslexic who wondered, “Is there a dog?” Ashcroft states “I’m here to testify that, yes, there a dog, who is alive and well and eager to greet you.” (13)
In writing about the love of God, rooted in Justice, she states: “The church has tried desperately to domesticate the Spirit.
“Sit.” “You can’t do it that way. No, you have to be converted first and then receive the Spirit.”
“Stay.” “The Sprit’s role is to convict you of sin.”
“Roll over.” The Spirit was necessary before the canon of Scripture was complete.”
The Kingdom of God can be a win-win situation if we do not work to hinder the Spirit.
The just wage of God is given to all when we live in a stance of gratitude, rather than competition and control. The disciples’ questions of, “What’s in it for us?” are questions of limitation, rather than a statement of openness to God’s grace.
So often our value and self-worth is based on our earnings and not on the ways that we experience unmerited, unearned generosity. Envy because of generosity has no place in God’s reign.
As hard as it is to swallow, the last will be first, and the first will be last, thank God!
©Rev. P. Del Staigers