Speaking of Life 5044 | God’s Generosity
I grew up in apple country. My grandparents and my parents owned apple orchards, and each year we would hire laborers during harvest time to pick and pack apples. We paid a fair wage, and we rarely had trouble finding laborers. Sometimes a worker had to leave early or start late for some unforeseen reason, and I sometimes saw my dad or my grandfather pay them a full day’s wage anyway. Still, I’m not sure I ever saw them do the practice we read about in the book of Matthew.
In chapter 20, Jesus tells an interesting parable to illuminate the kingdom of God. He spoke about a landowner who sought to hire workers to labor in his vineyard. Similar to when I was young, day laborers at that time would gather at a central location and wait to be hired. The landowner hired his first batch of apple-pickers early in the morning, around 6:00, and agreed to pay them a denarius, which was the typical daily wage for work like this. He went out and hired workers at 9:00, 12:00, 3:00, and 5:00. When evening came, the landowner decided to pay all of the workers, starting with the last hired. Seeing that the landowner paid those hired at 5:00 a denarius, those hired first expected to be paid more. When they also received a denarius, they began to complain. Those hired at 5:00 only worked one hour yet were paid the same wage as those who worked for 12 hours in the hot sun. In Matthew 20, we read the interesting response of the landowner in Jesus’ story:
But he answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
A lot is going on in this story. The one central lesson is that God, the landowner is good, gracious, and generous to all of his servants. This is the triune God’s nature, all the time.
The concept of human fairness is brought into question. How can a laborer who worked just one hour get the same pay as a laborer who worked 12 hours? The story is not really about labor laws and fair wages. It is about a personal God who offers grace and salvation to all.
Let me ask a strange question – “Are grace and salvation better for me than they are for you?” There are no degrees of separation, and Jesus’ teachings always deflate the notion of a competition or contest.
The landowner has space and rewards for all. As Jesus assured his followers, “In my house are many mansions.”
I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.