Summary: Parables for Seekers, Pt. 7
YOU ARE HIRED! (MATTHEW 20:1-16)
The economic crisis at the turn of the 21st century that hit the airline industry reflects the cost of doing business. United Airlines and Continental Airlines filed for bankruptcy and American Airlines avoided bankruptcy after the union gave back $1.62 billion in wages and benefits to the company. Before 9/11, airline pilots earn as much as $150,000 a year flying domestic airplanes and $300,000 for the big international routes. Work security, however, is a thing of the past. Jobs are cut, pay is reduced and the union is weakening. Terrorists, competition, insurance, tax and technology are threatening to eliminate their job. (St. Petersburg Times 9/6/02 “Dream Job Becoming Demoralizing”)
Engineers tell a joke that the high-tech cockpits of the future will be equipped with a computer, a pilot and a dog - the computer will fly the plane and the dog will bite the pilot if he tries to touch the controls!
Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a benevolent and wise employer who promises potential employees on His team full employment, full pay and full benefits. Layoffs, recession and hiring freeze are absent in His company and under His ownership. The theory behind this parable, like most parables, includes God’s open invitation, glad acceptance and full inclusion of gospel listeners who are receptive, responsive and repentant – even if they are Gentiles, sinners or undeserving.
What do we know about God’s hiring practices, operational style, fiscal management and conflict management style? Why is our Heavenly Father more generous, giving and genuine than earthly bosses? Why does Jesus value souls more than savings?
God Says What He Means - An Offer is an Offer
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. (Matt 20:1-2)
The crisis and challenge for unemployed workers is the loss of income, his identity and initiative. However, being unemployed does not mean doing nothing. A Psychology Today article provides some suggestions to the unemployed on the lookout for a job: “Make job hunting a full-time commitment. Stories abound of well-qualified people who have been unemployed for a year or more. Is the problem a poor economy or something else? Frequently, it is something else - minimal job-hunting efforts, perhaps. Surveys have shown that most people who have been unemployed for lengthy periods spend fewer than five hours a week actively searching for work. They manage to land only one or two interviews each month. If you are unemployed, you should spend a minimum of 40 hours a week actively searching for work. As a full-time job seeker, your goal should be at least one interview a day with someone who has the power to hire you. For lower-level jobs, even more interviews a day are possible. You’ve heard the saying, “Looking for a job is a full-time job.” Consider putting in some overtime as well.” (“How to Land a Job,” Psychology Today 9-10/94)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2006 workers below 55 spent an average of 16 weeks looking for work and workers 55 or older need 22 weeks to do so. (“Out of Retirement and Into Uncertainty” New York Times 5/27/07)
God is the most charitable, compassionate and coveted employer in the job market and in the free world. He says what he means and means what he says. He does not tell a lie, change His mind or keep us guessing. In the parable of the vineyard, He offered to pay the workers as long as they reported for duty, entered the fields and kept the hours. No questions were asked, no supervision was necessary and no one was fired. He did not question them about the work they did, the area they covered and the hours they kept. Also note that the charitable owner did not even ask if the workers had wasted any time, whether they had talked with others, taken a break or stopped for lunch. The landlord kept his promise; he paid at the end of the day, not the next day or the next week or over several days. It was paid in terms of cash, not in the form of goods or livestock.
The landowner’s hiring terms and conditions were unusual but unmistakable. He hired the first group for a denarius and sent them into the vineyard. In Greek, the word “work” in verse 1 is missing; so it should read, “A landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men into his vineyard.” Not only in verse 1, but the word “work” in verses 4, 7 and 13 are also absent in the Greek text. Verses 4 and 7 are identical; it should say, “Go also you into the vineyard” and verse 13 should read, “Did you not agree with me for a denarius?” Work is assumed but never specified or enforced. The job description was flexible and doable, not harsh or rigid. Presence was demanded, attendance was compulsory, pay was guaranteed, but effort and quality were overlooked. One can say He hired the workers not because he needed help but they needed work. They just had to clock or check in and clock or check out, account for the number of working hours and stay within the confines of the vineyard.