“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. W
hen he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’
When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’
But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
We’ve all been there: we place the finishing touches on a project only to have someone else, who has only put in a few minutes’ time, also take credit. Right? It’s the worst.
It doesn’t take much to imagine the indignation of the laborers in today’s parable. Perhaps you’re right there with them, lamenting that a full day’s work shouldn’t earn the same wage as an hour’s work. Clearly, this landowner doesn’t seem to understand how things are supposed to work!
But is that so? Or might it be that we don’t get how things work? In God’s Kingdom, the last precedes the first. Equal reward is given regardless of hours worked. If it seems scandalous, that might be because we often prefer fairness on our terms, rather than the terms of our merciful God.
Lord, help us to make these words our own: Your kingdom come, your will be done.
—Dan Finucane teaches theology and coordinates Campus Ministry activities at St. Louis University High School in St. Louis MO.
Lord, help us to release our tight grip that clings to comparisons that place us above the other or cause us to think less of ourselves. Such comparisons may become so habitual that we are dulled to their negative impact on our energy and generosity. Let your Spirit intercede so we turn away from such thoughts. Fill us with gratitude for your infinite love, and let us rejoice in the good news of others!
—The Jesuit Prayer Team