Summary: How do you figure your self worth – by how much money you have or how much power or prestige you have? Jesus has a totally different idea of how to measure your worth.
What are you worth? I mean, really, how do you figure out what you are worth as a person? If you are #7 NFL Draft pick Bryant McKinnie the answer is easy. He’s in negotiations now with the Minnesota Vikings. He says it’s easy to sign him:
"All I’m asking is for a fair deal. And that’s real simple. All you do is give me a deal that’s the average between the sixth pick and the eighth pick, and there you go."
Ryan Sims, the 6th pick signed a 13 million dollar deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. The 8th pick, Roy Williams, got about 10 million dollars from the Dallas Cowboys – so that would make McKinnie’s price point 11.5 million.
And that is often how we measure our worth as well – if the guy just a little better than me got this much, and the guy just a little worse than me got that much – then I ought to be worth something in the middle.
We even play that game with God. If the guy who’s just a little more righteous than I, or has been a Christian a little longer than me gets blessed in this way – and the guy who is a little less righteous than I, or has been a Christian a little less time than I gets blessed that much – then I ought to get something in the middle.
The problem with that kind of reckoning is that God’s economy doesn’t work the same ours does – and God’s kingdom, and His blessings don’t work in the way we think they ought to. As Americans we especially thing everything should be absolutely fair – but God doesn’t often play by our rule book – and He is NOT, despite popular belief, an American.
So today we come to a story that Jesus tells us that outlines God’s strategy for dealing with people. It’s very instructive – and in light of all the parables Jesus has been teaching through these last few chapters – gives us real insight into the type of people that populate God’s kingdom.
20:1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 "About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ’You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
"He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ’Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 "’Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
"He said to them, ’You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ’Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 "The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12’These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ’and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 "But he answered one of them, ’Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
Let’s set a little historical background for this story. In those days there were three classes of workers – day laborers who waited each day for work, owners of small plots of land who needed to supplement their income – and drifters looking to pick up an odd job or two.
During harvest the crops had to be picked quickly – and the day started early – about 6 am. That’s the first hour, sunrise (or "early in the day"). The wage for a day’s work was a denarius. So the day laborers would have been waiting to work all day and would have expected that wage for the work.