August 21, 2013
The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’
So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Fairness vs. Generosity
Today, in Matthew’s gospel, we hear the story about the vineyard owner who goes out at various times of the day and hires workers. When it comes time to pay them, he pays those who had only worked an hour the same as those who had labored throughout the hot day. I have to admit, if I had shown up at daylight and worked all day, I would expect more than the fellow who didn’t show up until late in the afternoon! Isn’t that only fair? I also admit that I have sympathy for the owner when he says he gave those early laborers exactly what they had agreed to. Additionally, isn’t he free to do with his money as he wishes?
I think my initial reactions simply don’t get the point of what Jesus is saying to us. The very first words of the parable are “the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner.” Jesus is not talking about wage economics or the rights of private property. He is talking about God’s generosity and love for us. Aren’t I being terribly small- minded when I become jealous because of the generosity and love God shows another person?
Don’t such comparisons come from less than divine inspiration? When I discern the source of such movements in my heart, they definitely come from selfishness and self-centeredness. I have to remind myself how undeserving I am of the infinite love God showers upon me. God not only showers his love upon me, He also invites and asks me to shower it upon the people he puts in my life!
So, how will I act today ?!
—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits
Lord, help us to release our tight grip that clings to comparisons that place us above the other or cause us to think less of ourselves. Such comparisons may become so habitual that we are dulled to their negative impact on our energy and generosity. Let your Spirit intercede so we turn away from such thoughts. Fill us with gratitude for your infinite love, and let us rejoice in the good news of others!
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Please share the Good Word with your friends!