Saturday, September 17, 2011
A Word on the Word
The kingdom of heaven, says Jesus, is like a landowner who goes out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. He rounds up a group, agrees to pay them the usual daily wage and then puts them into action.
At nine o'clock, he rounds up another group. At noon, he recruits a third team, and then at three o'clock, a fourth. Finally, at five o'clock, he finds still more laborers who are willing and able to work. He sends them into the vineyard to do what they can before sundown.
As the day ends, the landowner instructs his manager to pay the workers, beginning with those who started at five in the afternoon. Their pay: one denarius, the usual daily wage. Then the three o'clock team is paid - one denarius. The nooners, one denarius. The nine o'clock crowd, one denarius.
Finally, the all-day workers get their pay, and it is the same: one denarius. This final group of coworkers are mad, believing that they deserve more than the workers who began their work at the end of day. "These last worked only one hour," the sunrise crowd grumbles, "and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat."
But these people are thinking like Kinko's, not Kingdom coworkers. "Friend, I am doing you no wrong," explains the landowner to one of the all-day workers; "did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?"
"Well, ah yea, in fact I did," admits the laborer.
"Take what belongs to you and go," advises the owner; "I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you." As unfair as it may seem to pay a one-hour worker the same wage as a 12-hour worker, we have to admit that the landowner is perfectly free to do what he chooses with what belongs to him. If he wants to be generous, he is certainly entitled to be generous.
In the economy of the kingdom of God, God's grace is unmerited. God pays a full day's wages - regardless.
In one penetrating parable, Jesus leaves us with a lot to think about.