Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Standing by

GospelMatthew 20:1-16 

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

If ever there was a Gospel which calls for righteous indignation, it is usually this one. The thought that a lifetime's commitment could rewarded in the same way as a deathbed confession leaves many people grumbling along with the earlier workers. It's just not fair.

But we all know that life isn't fair; especially when life seems to tipped in other people favour but we expect God to be fair - and we expect God's fairness to tip very much towards us. The truth is we need God's fairness to tip towards us.

Who knows why the others were still waiting in the market place? Idle doesn't mean lazy - it means able to but not actually working. The traditional telling of the parable would have had you believe that they were lazy - that it was the early birds who benefitted - the first 'Chosen'. Who knows why these people were not chosen - too old; too young; sickly or infirm; from the wrong side of the tracks or just off the hills. And if that's where you are, then one place may be very much like another; indeed the only relief may be to be with others who are like you.

The telling moment is that when the opportunity is given - they go and they work; probably work their hearts out hoping that today's half a day will give them the chance they've been looking for to make an impression; to show what they can do. Hoping that these few hours - whatever the pay- will show them worthy of another day.

It doesn't take God that long to know your worth. In 1 Timothy it says ; God wills that all will be saved. It is not up to us to make exceptions - we are meant to love as we love ourselves - as long as the work is done.



Jade said...

Developing a non-judgmental attitude towards others takes practice. And when I say non-judgmental, I mean, refraining from judging people, although we can still show right from wrong. My prayer today is to love others with even just a fraction of the love Jesus has for everyone. Blessings. :)

Word in the Hand said...

So difficult to do - yet what we are asked to - blessings back m+x