Sunday Readings: Isaiah 55.6-9; Philippians 1.20-24,27; Matthew 20.1-16
“Call the workers 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 daily wager. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more, but each received the daily wage.” – Matthew 20.8-10
Last Sunday’s parable and this Sunday’s are more about who God is than about how envious and exacting we humans can be. The owner forgave his manager last week rather than through him in jail until he paid his debt. But the manager refused to forgive a servant who owed him a debt and instead threw him in jail.
We learn God, who freely gives us life, makes forgiveness the standard in the kingdom. We pray in the Our Father that God forgive us as we forgive those who harm us.
In case you find yourself thinking these parables seem old fashion. An story in the morning news shows this parable playing out in Florida. A recent statewide election returned the vote to ex-felons but legislators set up requirements to pay court costs first, which few can afford.
This Sunday’s parable introduces a generous vineyard owner how pays those who worked the last hour of the day the same as those who worked all day. Needless to say, those who worked all day grumble and complain to the manager they deserve a higher wage if those who worked only an hour get the full daily wage.
The owner asks, “Am I not allow to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or, are you envious because I am generous?”
The parable is not about the wages workers deserve but about the householder’s generosity and a Christian social order. In effect the vineyard owner shows a preferential option for the last, for the poorest. The householder repeatedly seeks workers in the marketplace and cares that all receive a living wage.
Jesus calls us in this parable to be generous like God is generous, to include people who are poor in the common good. We all stand in the same relationship to God, who owns the vineyard of creation. No one goes home in this parable without the daily means to feed a family.
What makes a person first or last in our society? In Jesus’ eyes?