What are we to make of today’s Gospel message from Matthew? (Matthew 20:1-16a) Simply put, Jesus uses a parable to teach his disciples that God is not fair. Those who were hired at the end of the day were paid first and received the same wage promised to those who toiled all day. It seems to us that those who worked all day should expect to be paid more, but all the workers received the same pay. Jesus teaches us that God is not fair, God is generous. God plays by a higher set of standards, where the least powerful get extra protection, where the strong serve the weak, where the pious receive the same grace as the sinner. This may sound troubling depending on where you are in this line-up of workers at the end of the toilsome day.
But what if we are not really at the front of the line, the early risers? What if we are really at the end of the line, Gentiles who arrive centuries late to the family of God after the Jewish people have worked for centuries as God’s chosen people? Could it be that we are the 5:00 workers after all? From the back of the line, this parable sounds quite different. That said, it means that all of us are being invited to dance to the tune of Amazing Grace. Personally I’m glad that God is not fair, but that God is generous instead.
- Deacon Robert