Summary: A sermon for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost Landlord and laborers
18th Sunday after Pentecost
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."RSV
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
As you heard the gospel lesson being read this morning, it the feeling of unfairness come into your mind and soul. Did you say to yourself, that farmer was being unfair, paying each person the same wage for different hours of work.
Pastor Steven Simala Grant says this about his childhood:
Growing up with an older sibling, one of the frequent cries out of my mouth was one some of you parents hear on a daily basis: "no fair!" You know, "How come he gets to stay up later? How come he gets to choose what to watch on TV? How come he gets to be in charge when we are home alone? How come we have to share the last piece of cake?" The most frequent, and least satisfying, response I heard to my heartfelt cries against the grave injustice I experienced was: "You’re right. It isn’t fair. Neither is life, so be quiet and live with it." The most Solomon like response was to the sharing the piece of cake complaint &endash; my mom always made one of us split it and then the other one got to choose which piece they wanted.1
At first blush, this story seems to be unfair. Let us look at it more closely:
In Jesus’ day, those who wanted to work, would be in the market place ready for someone to come and hire them. It was not unusual for a farmer, landlord, to go and find help for the harvest of his vineyards. So, early in the morning, he goes to the market place and hires some workers for the day. Notice what he tells them, the text says: "After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into the vineyard." They had agreed upon a wage for a day’s work. It was a fair wage, a common wage for that day, a just wage.
But then the third hour, 9 o’clock, he goes back to the market place and sees some more men still waiting to be hired. He says to these men,"’You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went." He does this again the 6th hour, 12:00 noon, and the ninth hour, 3:00 in the afternoon, and even at 5:00, the last working hour he goes to the market place and hires workers to work in his fields.
Please, please, notice an important point here with these men, the householder tells them he will pay them whatever is right, they trust him and go into the fields. They do not know how much they will receive. They go, they trust.
At 6:00, work was over, the foreman calls the workers together and begins to pay them. But a strange thing happens, he begins with the ones hired at 5:00, and he pays them a denarii for their hour work, the agreed upon price for a whole day’s work. Each worker comes and receives his pay. The ones hired at 3:00pm, at 12:00, noon, at 9:00am and at 6:00am all receive a denarii. Those hired at 6:00 am, when their turn came, hoped they would receive more, because they worked the hardest, they had been in the field the longest, working under the hot sun all day long, but, they also received the agreed upon price for their labors, a denarii.