The most “unjust” parable ever told! We do not want to hear that the last shall be first and the first shall be last, especially at a cafeteria line, or in traffic, or at a job promotion. An alarm goes off when we hear that people worked for different hours but at the end of the day everyone received the same payment.
If we are among the last, then we have no complaints. If we happen to be first and others get ahead, then there’s a big problem. That’s how the workers felt who had labored all day and were given the same amount of money as those who worked only one hour. “Management! I want to speak to your supervisor! Who’s in charge here”. However, management had made the decision. In the story, the landowner was calling the shots. There was no higher authority. The landowner is God. We are the workers. Truth be told, there’s always trouble among the workers. Circumstances really do not matter. We are always going to compare. Who’s got more? Who’s got less? Let’s blame the government, the economy, the immigrants. Somebody’s got to be to blame for the fact that we didn’t get what we expected. Unmet expectations are the greatest cause for disappointment—in some cases depression. The workers hired first had agreed to the usually daily wage. That was their expectation. All would have been fine, and everyone would have lived “Happily ever after”, except that those hired first saw how much the ones hired last received. The landowner purposefully called the ones hired last and paid them as if they had worked all day. Nothing wrong with people getting a little extra— “Pilon”.
When we speak about God’s grace, we all get a “Pilon”. We get much more than we deserve, just because the landowner loves us. He treats everyone with compassion. However, at times we grumble because we judge the landowner to be unfair. We want the landowner to behave the way that we want. He should like the people that we like, and He should punish the people that we do not like. No secret, all the bad people are going to go to hell. And who are the bad people? Who deserves eternal punishment? All the folks that we do not like. We do not want to be in the same room with them. We don’t want to see them. We certainly do not want to be in heaven with them. Therefore, if we are going to heaven, they must be going somewhere else. Consider that the ones whom we do not like are the ones who came last. They only worked a short time and the landowner is going to treat them the same way that He treats us.
We can grumble all that we want. Yet, the landowner is free to do whatever the landowner wants. We are not in charge! Takes years to digest the fact that we are not in charge. We pretend. We keep giving God plenty of suggestions. But usually, God is not asking for our advice. Lots of people who circled around Jesus thought that they were in charge. They knew the Law. They had power. No doubt that they looked down on those that they thought ignorant—inferior in some way. That’s why Jesus told the story. So that perhaps the little light would shine. God does not think the way that we think. God does not judge us according to our actions. Look at the scene on the cross when Jesus was about to die. Two men hung by His side. Both had committed crimes. They were guilty. But one of them repented and asked to be remembered by Jesus when He would enter His Kingdom. He was a thief until the end because he stole Paradise—he was like those hired last in the story—who worked only a little while but received a full day’s wage. Mercy, kindness, compassion do not need an explanation. All that we can say is, “Thank you.” Rather than grumbling, being envious of what someone else has, we need to be grateful to be in the presence of the landowner.
God has deemed us worthy to hire us. Whether we have a long life of service or short life, may everything that we do be for His glory and honor.