“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion [a day’s wage — j+], he sent them into his vineyard.
“Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ And they went.
“Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. 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?’
“‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied.
“He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’
“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.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, ‘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.’
“But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 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. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”
Ah! Here’s a parable about G-d’s Realm we can agree with! As I noted last week, a lot of us don’t really like thinking of the parables about G-d’s Realm as a picture of how Yahweh deals with people. Especially when the images can be too scary or borderline on “evil.” But this one might be okay.
This story is about Yahweh’s mercy. Or grace. Or love. Honestly, it could be about any of G-d’s gifts or all of them. The point of the parable is made by the landowner — Yahweh has the right “to do what I want with what belongs to me.”
But then there’s the follow up question. And that question stings like ice cold water on the face first thing in the morning, “[Are] you resentful because I’m generous?”
There are some people who we really don’t think deserve G-d’s love. In fact, some of us would go so far to say that, not only do they not deserve G-d’s love, we “know” they won’t possibly receive it!
The abusive spouse.
The kid who tortures animals.
The person who sexually assaulted a child.
The politician who stole the money away from widows.
Those are just the obvious ones. Why do we think Yahweh shouldn’t love them? Because they’re “evil” or “mean”? Because they’ve done horrific and unspeakable things?
But which one of us hasn’t been mean to someone else? Which one of us is “without sin” (John 8.1-11)?
When we start grumbling, like the first workers chosen by the landowner, we’re thinking more highly of ourselves that we ought (Romans 12.3). The truth is, G-d really does love everyone. There will be some people, though, who come into the family at the very last. But that’s not our concern. Our main vocation is to help implement G-d’s Realm here; now.
And, really, this whole “who got here first and worked the longest” is relative. I mean, there have been faithful followers of The Way of Jesus for a long, long time (Hebrews 11). And there will be many more. More than anyone can count:
After this I looked, and there was a great crowd that no one could number. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes and held palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice:
“Victory belongs to our God
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC