The Laborers in the Vineyard
or The Generous Employer

Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16

1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to them he said, `You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. 5 Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, `Why do you stand here idle all day?' 7 They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, `You go into the vineyard too.' 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, `Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, 12 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.' 13 But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' 16 So the last will be first, and the first last."

Meditation: What can work and wages, wefare and the unemployed tell us about the kingdom of God?  In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard we see the extraordinary generosity and compassion of God. There is great tragedy in unemployment. In Jesus' times hired laborers had to wait each day in the marketplace until someone hired them for a day's job. No work that day usually meant no food on the family table. The laborers who worked all day and received their payment complain that the master pays the late afternoon laborers the same wage. The master, undoubtably, hired them in the late afternoon so they wouldn't go home payless and hungry. God is generous in opening the doors of his kingdom to all who will enter, both those who have labored a life-time for him and those who come at the last hour. While the reward is the same, the motive for one's labor can make all the difference. Some work only for reward. They will only put as much effort in as they think they will get out. Others labor out of love and joy for the opportunity to work. The Lord calls his disciples to serve God and neighbor with generosity and joy. Do you find joy in giving freely to others?

"Lord, may I serve you and my neighbor with a glad and generous heart, not looking for how much I can get but rather looking for how much I can give."

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(c) 1998 Don Schwager