“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 “Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ 5 And they went.
“Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. 6 Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’
7 “‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied.
“He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ 9 When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. 11 When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’
13 “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ 16 So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”
“Are you resentful because I’m generous?”
This verse represents the key to this parable, one of my favorites. It’s a favorite of mine because it played an important role in my call to ministry. After I spoke briefly on this during a worship service, my pastor shared with me that at lunch that day, his wife had said to him: “that boy needs to go to seminary!” Ned was bold enough to tell me what Rochelle had said, and that started a series of conversations that got me to where I am today.
But back to the parable. Jesus continually told stories about people who got angry about God’s gracious response to humanity. Remember the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son? (If you don’t remember, take a look at Luke 15.) He was furious that the younger brother was welcomed back into the household – so much so that he refused to come to the party!
It seems many in Jesus’ day were upset by the notion that God was so quick to love and forgive everybody. The most religious were convinced that unless you believed and acted like them, you could never enter into God’s grace. They were the folks who criticized Jesus for eating with sinners and tax collectors. And we know that there are many who feel that way even today.
People are sometimes upset by the notion that they’ve been serving God the “right” way over so many years, and refuse to believe that God could so freely accept those who have come to faith after a long time of wandering. Clearly, they’ve never fully embraced the message of this parable.
The point isn’t whether we’ve been faithful for a short or long while. The point is whether we are faithful NOW – in each moment, in each day, in each opportunity we have to share the love of God with others.
Never be resentful of God’s generosity!
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
God loves us like parents love children: we never love our kids in exactly THE SAME way. That’s because what each child needs is different. That’s what God’s grace and generosity provide for us: a love that embraces us in exactly the way we need to experience it. What would you say is unique about the shape of God’s love and grace in your life?
Prayer: Gracious God, help me never to be resentful of your generosity toward others. Remind me of the richness of your love given to me, even in those moments when I felt I least deserved it. Amen.