Summary: This is on the parable of the workers in the vineyard that were all paid the same.
I want to tell you a story…
There is a small rural farming community not far from here. It is not a wealthy place. In fact, it’s a very poor place. There are a lot of immigrants—legal and illegal—there. Jobs are scarce. The only work most of these immigrants can get is backbreaking work in the fields. They do the labor that cannot be done with machinery.
One day, last August, a farmer came to a diner where many of the immigrant farm laborers gather to look for daily labor. It was 6:00 AM. There were a handful of immigrants there, hoping someone would come along and hire them for the day. The farmer saw them and said he needed some help, and that he would pay them $75 for a day’s work. They jumped at the chance. It was a fair wage and would provide food for that night and the next day, as well as help with the rent.
At 9:00, the farmer had to go back to town to get some supplies. He drove past the same diner and saw another group of immigrants sitting there. The work he needed done that day would require more manpower than the first group could deliver. He drove up and asked if they needed work for the day. He told them that he would pay them a fair wage. They jumped at the opportunity for work. Their families needed money for rent and food.
At noon, and again at 3:00, the farmer came back to town. Each time as he passed the diner and saw another group of immigrants waiting for work. Each time he stopped and offered work and a fair wage to them. Each time he returned to the fields with a new group of eager workers.
At 5:00, an hour before quitting time, he made one last run into town, again passing the diner. He noticed some men sitting around. He asked them why they weren’t working. They said that no one had hired them. He said they could come and work for an hour. They looked at each other and said they would.
At 6:00, the work was done. The farmer came out with the pay envelopes. He handed them to the foreman and told him to pay the workers, starting with the ones that had started working at 5:00.
They opened the envelopes to see $75. The ones who had been there all day got excited, thinking they would receive a big bonus. They were disappointed, even angry, when they opened their pay envelopes to find only $75. They protested. They had worked through the hottest part of the day, as the sun beat down on them with no relief. These other guys only worked a few hours, and the ones that were hired last only worked one hour. The ones hired at 6:00 AM worked 12 grueling hours. They had busted their butts the whole day.
The farmer replied, “Didn’t you agree to work the whole day for $75? I’m the farmer. It’s my money. Am I not allowed to do with it what I want?”
The workers hired at 5:00 had families, just like the workers that were hired 11 hours earlier. They needed food. They had to pay the rent.
Let’s discuss: How does that story make you feel? What would you have thought being one of the 5 PM workers? The 6 AM workers?
I must confess that I plagiarized that story. Jesus told a story very similar to this one.
Read Matthew 20:1-16.
The workers weren’t required to work. No one forced them into the fields to work. The boss saw them and asked if they would work. All who agreed to work got the benefit of working: cold hard cash.
Let this story be a warning to us, on a couple levels. The first would be a warning against false piety. Jesus told this story in response to Peter’s pious response to something Jesus said.
Read Matthew 19:16-30.
We want what’s ours. To determine if we are getting what’s coming to us, we compare ourselves to what others are getting. If we get more, we have a smug confidence that we’re better than the other guy. If we get shortchanged and the other guy gets more, we holler and scream about how unfair it is.
The workers who had arrived at 6 AM compared themselves to the guys who showed up at 5 PM. Peter compared himself to the rich man. He was obviously a much better person because he had no problem leaving everything to follow Jesus. Later, Peter compared himself to a fellow disciple, John.
Read John 21:20-22.
God gives each one of us gifts. We can’t compare our gifts to someone else. I can’t be jealous of Tammy’s musical ability. I can’t compare myself to her. She has the ability to play several instruments. I’m sure I have some ability that she doesn’t have.