1 “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay the normal daily wage[a] and sent them out to work.
3 “At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. 4 So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. 5 So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.
6 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’
7 “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’
“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’
8 “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. 9 When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. 10 When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. 11 When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, 12 ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’
13 “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? 14 Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. 15 Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’
16 “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”
Dear God, Jesus was really doing his best to offend these people. He wanted to make a point to them. Hey, it’s time to let go of yourself. It’s time to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength. It is time to truly love your neighbor as yourself. Root for your neighbor. Want the best for them even if they didn’t do everything as well as you did. Even if it costs you something.
I never noticed this little detail before (at least I don’t think I’ve notice it before), but in verse 8 Jesus says that the landowner paid the new guys first at the end of the day. Why? Well, he wanted to make sure the people hearing the story would understand that those who worked all day were there to see this “injustice.” If they had been paid first then they might have left before they realized the new guys got paid as much as they themselves had been paid. The landowner wasn’t being secretive or putting anything over on anyone. He didn’t have to answer to anyone. He could mete out mercy any way he saw fit.
So am I really prepared to root for all of my fellow people? Am I ready to cheer for those I perceive as lazy or hedonistic? Am I ready to welcome them into your kingdom and hope that they experience the peace that you offer?
Father, there is one aspect of this story that is lost. The workers who were hired early did actually get one thing that the other men didn’t get. They got the peace of knowing that they had work for the day and they would be able to feed their families that night. From the earliest parts of the day, they knew that and they also got the fulfillment of having done a full days work. There is a blessing that comes from that as well. The other men sat waiting. They were worried. They might have been hardworking, but they felt lazy. They probably felt judged by others who walked by and questioned why they weren’t working (they were certainly judged by those who had been hired earlier). No, there was a joy that the early workers experienced throughout the day that eluded the other workers until they too were hired. Help me to see those who are missing the joy that I have through being your servant and worshipper and to offer them work in your field.
In Jesus’s name I pray,