The parable of the laborers in the vineyard was the gospel for last Sunday.
We could think of it as being about egalitarianism, and the source of opposition to it: the laborers who get hired early in the day feel aggrieved, because they feel they deserve more than the latecomers. “It’s not fair.” The loafers [if it’s fair to think of them that way] are getting the same wage as the people with a real work ethic. Without even working for it. They’re getting the same, but they don’t DESERVE the same, so it’s like they’re getting more … more than they EARNED.
I used to relate to that logic, too. I used to identify with the laborers who had worked all day long, used to feel the exact same way. I could not shake the feeling that the landowner really WAS being unfair. Because everyone knows that if you work longer and harder you should get more.
That made it a hard story for Jesus of all people to be telling.
It’s one of Jesus’s, so it should be right. But it feels so wrong …
I couldn’t tell you when I started to see it differently, either, just that it hasn’t been that long. And that I remember how it felt.
It was like seeing one of those figures that could either be two faces or a candlestick, or like seeing the man in the moon instead of the rabbit in the moon. All of a sudden, something switches. After that, it’s hard to remember how you couldn’t see it that way before.
No one’s getting cheated.
Some are extra lucky. The lucky ones get more than they expected, more than they counted on, a bonus, a boon.
The lucky ones know it, too, I imagine – know how desperate they were, and how lucky they are.
Our pastor had an interesting take on it: this story is about coveting the gifts given to others.
In particular, the generous gifts of forgiveness, salvation, grace.
And so, she said, we have to ask ourselves: who do I hate to think of receiving grace?
“This is not partisan,” she said. It’s not a question of which people we feel this way about, which people we’ve identified as “undeserving.”
The point is that we each feel this way about someone, we each know at least one person who, when we think of THEM, of THAT PERSON getting the benefits of God’s grace, we think “No. Not them!” “That’s just not right!”
They don’t deserve the same as us.
They’re just not worthy.
[As if – LOL – as if we – LOL … and just like that, we notice one more time, how late to work we ourselves always are. And how lucky – thanks to how generous God is.]
Also, very occasionally, like last Sunday, we get to sing I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art. Another reason to feel grateful.