“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. “He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ “The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
I don’t know where you put yourself in Jesus’ story, but I can relate workers hired first—the ones who had been in the field all day. They had worked 12 hours and expected that the landowner would honor the contract of a good wage for a good days work. As the day wore on, new people joined the crew to get the work done. Now, if the landowner had made a contract with me for 12 hours of work and good pay, I would expect those who worked 6 hours to make exactly half what I made. And certainly those who only worked one hour would make 1/12th of what I made. Doesn’t that make sense? And so when the landowner called everyone together to receive their pay, I would have expected my contracted pay. But then the landowner begins with the workers who started last. They got the pay that I was promised. Wow! Well, ok, I guess that means that I’ll get 12x what they get since I worked 12x as long, right? So when the boss comes around, I put out my hand and… And I get exactly what I was promised, exactly what the workers at the other end of the line got!!! “How dare you!” You pay me the same amount that you paid them? What an insult! Wasn’t my hard work, diligence, and long hours worth more than their one hour at the end of the day? Of course it is! “How dare you insult me like this!”
Jesus started out this story with an important phrase, “The Kingdom of heaven is like…” You know what that tells us? This story about a vineyard and workers isn’t really about a vineyard and workers. It’s about you and me. You and I are the ungrateful workers. Maybe ours isn’t an argument from how long we’ve been in God’s field, but we compare. “I go to church way more often than my neighbors and yet they still have a better family life!” “I volunteer at church every free moment I have, why doesn't God reward me more?” “I live a better life, I act like a Christian unlike that so-called Christian at work, but she still has things easier than I do!” How dare you God! How dare you treat me the same as others! How dare you treat me worse than others! I clearly work harder and love you more. Why have you left me with the scraps!
And then the landowner comes back to those disgruntled workers and says, “How dare you!? Do I not have the right to be generous?” God does have the right to be generous. He has the right to give his gift of forgiveness as he sees fit. He has the right to hand out his blessings in any way. And he has. He has passed out blessing after blessing—to you and to me. He gives those blessings—but not so that we can compare them to others.
In fact, that’s the downfall of the first workers. If they hadn't compared their reward to the reward of the other workers, they would have been grateful. But they compare. The landowner says, “How dare you compare yourself to others? I give my mercy and forgiveness to you, isn't that enough?”
It is. It is enough. That God would dare to hand you the keys to heaven—that he would send his Son who was not just better than us, but perfect!—that he would wipe away all the times we have compared ourselves to others—all the times we have been ungrateful—all the times we have cheapened his gift. Brothers and sisters sit back and MARVEL at those things! Marvel at all the gracious blessings that your God dares shower upon you!
God’s blessings on your week!