Summary: “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle and said to them, ‘why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘you also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right y
Theme: The fidelity of God
Text: Is. 55:6-9; Phil. 1:20-24, 27; Matt. 20:1-16
In every human being, in each one of us, lies a potential just waiting to be discovered. But many people never discover what that potential is either because they never get the opportunity to use and develop it or more often than not they fail to recognise and seize the opportunity when it comes their way. Life is a marketplace full of people waiting for the opportunity to discover and use their God given potential. The labourers in Jesus’ parable today would have stayed in the marketplace all day doing nothing if the landowner had not come and given them the opportunity to work. Yet some of the workers were not happy. When we look at our own lives closely and are honest with ourselves we cannot fail to realise how much opportunity God has given us and how much He has done for us. Very often, however, when we see or hear about God doing more in another person’s life than He is doing in ours, we get envious. We feel that God must bless us at least in the same way if not more than the other person. Today’s Gospel reading confirms we are not the only ones who behave that way - other people do the exact same thing. It is human nature not only to be interested in what we receive but also to be interested in what others receive so that we can compare. It could be our salaries or the various gifts we receive. In today’s parable we are told that the men who were hired last worked only one hour, yet they received the same as those who had worked 12 hours – those who not only did most of the work but also worked during the hottest and most difficult time. This parable seems so unfair and out of character with the justice of God that it tends to make many people very upset and even angry. If such a thing were to happen here today the workers would go on a demonstration and embark on a strike. We however need to pay attention to this parable because it is told by Jesus Himself and is an object lesson on the fidelity of God.
What makes this parable so distressing is that the person we feel we should identify with seems unjust and the people we feel obligated to oppose seem to have a legitimate complaint. It is human nature to claim that a situation is unfair when someone gets more than we think they deserve. Today no employer would get away with what this landowner did. The government and the trade unions would make sure of that by accusing him of treating his employees unfairly. If this were the only reference we had concerning the personality and character of God, we might draw some very unfavourable conclusions. The Scriptures however portray God as good, just, faithful and loving who deals with men and women in a different way than the world does. In the world it is made sure that those who work longer get a higher pay and bigger bonuses. According to the world the wages of workers depend on the amount of work done. According to God they depend on Him and not on the amount of work done.
The world is mainly concerned about productivity and has elaborate laws and rules that cover wages and workers are paid according to the amount of work they do, the position they hold and the length of time they have spent in employment. The landowner in today’s parable went very early to the marketplace and agreed to pay the workers the daily wage. Then throughout the day he continued to return to the marketplace, each time hiring anyone who was willing to work. The landowner’s first trip to the marketplace can be attributed to his interest in seeing work done in the vineyard. But his subsequent trips at 9 O’clock in the morning, at noon, at 3 O’clock in the afternoon and finally at 5 O’clock suggest an interest in the workers themselves and not in the work on the vineyard. These men were hired, not so much because the landowner needed them, but because they needed the job. He knew and understood their need for meaningful employment for without it life would have no purpose, no meaning and no direction. Everyone needs something to do, somewhere to go, and someone to be responsible for. Nothing can so undermine a man’s sense of self-worth as the feeling of not being needed. God chooses us not because He needs us but because we need Him. This does not mean that we can control how God is going to bless us or someone else. God does not need our counsel before He gives to us or to someone else to make sure that he or she is getting what he or she deserves. In today’s parable those who worked all day believed that those who had worked only one hour did not deserve what they were paid. To add insult to injury they were the ones who were paid first. We are gathered here this morning to worship God because God chose us to be here. We may think that we are here because we chose God, but we did not. God is calling everybody to come and to work for Him. Until we give our lives to him, we are like the labourers just standing around doing nothing. Let us answer His call today and discover His will for our lives.