I can imagine that a slew of folks don’t like it much. I recall, on reading the bible for the first time, the end of many a parable was not at all what I had expected. This one is no exception.
For those of you unaware of the story, a short synopsis. A vineyard owner goes out early, presumably at daybreak and finds day laborers who he sends into his fields at the going rate of pay. Throughout the day, he continues to return to the town square and find laborers and sends them out, the last at 5 pm, when the end of the work shift is apparently 6 pm.
Now an interesting thing happens. Instead of letting the men line up at will, he instructs that the latest into the fields should be lined up first, and the one’s who have worked longest should be at the back. This insures of course that those at the end of the line will witness what he does in regards to those who worked the least hours.
And since this is deliberate, the owner for unstated reasons wishes to make a point. As he pays the guys who worked one hour a full days wage, the grumbling begins. The guys who have worked eleven hours our more, expect that they will receive even more, but they don’t.
In fact the owner does what he must have wanted to do. He chastises them. He tells them. First, you got exactly what you bargained for before you started. Two, it’s my money, not yours, who are you to tell me I can’t be generous? And three, are you just envious of what is mine?
Now I can see how this would grate on the average hourly paid working stiff. After all, that is the point isn’t it? One is paid so much an hour. It would appear grossly unfair if someone who didn’t work the same number of hours got the same wage. We can assume in this story that a days wages was based on some agreed upon number of hours, from sun up to sun down probably.
I can see a blue collar gal being pretty angry here, and not getting what Jesus is driving at. Or perhaps, getting it all too well, and not agreeing with it.
But for the average “fair is fair” kinda person, there is something to be said for the remark of the vineyard owner: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?”
That is, of course, latched onto when we get to talking about taxes and government programs designed to achieve some basic equanimity in life quality for all citizens. Isn’t that the argument often used by the right? “I worked hard to get what I have, I shouldn’t have to support lazy people who want to receive it as a hand out.”
There is no little of this attitude of group dynamics going on here. We are the responsible group–we work, we pay our legitimate taxes for the military and so forth, we attend the PTA, and we raise our kids and make sure they learn to be honest people. You others–you probably don’t do any of those things because you can’t seem to accomplish the first thing–get a job.
Therefore YOU don’t pay taxes (untrue of course), don’t attend PTA meetings, and don’t teach your kids any basic code of conduct, which is why they join gangs, sell drugs, and drop out of school.
All neat and tidy.
Said folks like to think that God does the same. Meaning, He (and it’s always he) rewards the faithful and well, he tut-tuts and wags a finger at the lazy. They like to think that God is as they would describe it: FAIR.
So this story, just bothers the heck out of them, except for that one line of course. Or they twist it into a nice little ditty about how anybody can give as much as they want away in charity, and that is the rightful means by which the poor (but still lazy) should be dealt with.
What they do not do is think: Is Jesus trying to tell me that as long as anyone tries, even if they fail, they get equal treatment before God? I mean think about it. The day laborers who were still without work at 5 pm were not people who nobody chose all day. The owner returned again and again and each time send all there into his fields.
So, it must mean that perhaps a good many of these laborers had arrived late–overslept? been busy with personal pursuits? nursing hangovers? Who knows? But there is reason to believe they were not diligent in getting to the town square on time for the first call to work. So they might be termed lazy mightn’t they?
And Jesus is saying, hey, we all have limitations. We are all failing in some way. Some of us fail to have drive and motivation and skill at working. Some of us have mental disabilities, or moral failings. But even if we don’t try very hard, those who try at all have a right to be upheld and rewarded and ENCOURAGED.
Being a Class A worker doesn’t make you special. It makes you responsible to work on your own limitations and let God the vineyard owner give beneficence as he sees fit to whom he sees fit. Mind your own business! Work on removing that plank from your own eye.