This week the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner, an owner of an estate, head of a household, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
Before I continue, in Christ’s parables we are invited into the story to find ourselves a part of it. With the hope that we can apply the lesson to our own lives.
The landowner, a person of means goes into town to find people to work on his land. He goes out around 6 am and makes an agreement with those he finds there to work for the usual daily wage, a Roman denarius.
The landowner went to the marketplace again at 9 am and saw others standing idle in the marketplace and said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” And so they went.
Before I continue through this parable, does anyone know or suspect who the landowner is……..The landowner is Christ. The marketplace is the world. And the vineyard is……………….Christ’s church. Any guess who the idle laborers are?
I was an idle laborer for many years. An idle laborer seems contradictory. It could be used to describe many of us at some point in our life, it but for a short season.
As a landowner seeks out laborers to work on his land, Christ is seeking, calling and employing laborers to be about the work of his church. It is important for us to be about the work of the church.
Yes, we know Pastor. I don’t know much about much, but I believe that once we become complacent, once the status quo is acceptable as a church, the church begins to die. That is an important reason it is important to be about the work of the church.
The landowner had gone out early in the morning, again at nine, he goes out again at noon and three and finds more laborers to employ. He goes out at the eleventh hour, or around 5 pm and found others standing around and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?”
What have you been doing here, nothing? They said, “Because no one has hired us.” No one has put us to work, no one has invited us to the vineyard to work, or invited us to church to be part of a community.
So, here are all these laborers. Some have been working all day under the hot sun since early in the morning. Some started at noon and some just showed up. And now we’ve arrived at the end of the work day.
It was a common practice and an expectation of those that you employed that they were paid at the end of the day in biblical times.
So, it is quitting time. A hard day’s work for some, an hour of work for others…..I’ve talked about how Christ reversed the expectations of what people expected.
In this parable the landowner said to his foreman, “Call the laborers and given them their pay, beginning with the last and giving to the first.”
This parable has been very straight forward so far, but here is where it gets tricky. Those that had started working last came forward and they were paid the usually daily wage, a Roman denarius.
What a generous guy this man is. If he paid a day’s wage for working for an hour, just think he will pay those that have worked since early this morning, since 9 am and since noon. Am I right? If I had been there since 6-7 am I would be thinking, YES. Today is going to be a good day. I’m eating steak tonight.
Guess how much the all the workers got paid regardless of how long they worked……….the same amount. One Roman denarius. One day’s 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.”
I would be right there with them. This is a bunch of crap. I’ve been working all day, I deserve more. I worked harder, I worked more. Have you ever noticed how sometimes you or someone you work with or someone you know thinks they are entitled to more?
I’m as guilty as anyone. There are times when we covet what God gives to others, blind to all that he has done for us. I’m easily as bad as anyone here today when it comes to coveting. I want a nicer house, a fancier car, a bigger bank account and everything else I want and I want it right now.
If I see someone’s existence as more comfortable or easier I want it. They don’t deserve it, I do. God, why can’t I have it? I completely dismiss all that I have been given. We have all worked hard in our lives, but there is little to nothing of what we’ve accomplished or have that can’t be traced back to something we were given.
Given from our parents, grandparents, family, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors and most importantly our God. Education level, intelligence, income, good health, safe places to grow up in – those are all things granted to us by the grace of God…..
I am usually first to take credit for what I’ve accomplished. See, I am selfish. I bet I’m not the only here today that is. It is part of our human condition. We have to fight our human needs, our compulsions, our want to do whatever we want whenever we want.
One of the best lessons we can learn in this life is to learn to sacrifice for others. To be content and grateful for all that we have and all that we are.
Not all of us are called to be saints, but we are called to help those in need. We are called to make a difference in our own, small corner of the world wherever that may be. To be pioneers in social justice.
This landowner, the owner of the estate was hearing from his disgruntled employees on how unfairly he had compensated them, even though they all had agreed to work for the daily wage. He answered them, “Friend, I have not been unfair. Did you not agree with me to work for the usual daily wage?”
“Take what belongs to you and go, I choose to give to this last the same as I have given 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.”
We are called to live lives of service. The reward for every man, woman and child who has faith in Christ, faith in the God that we serve, will receive the same eternal reward.
So let us not be idle workers in the marketplace. Let us not sit by in this world in our sin wasting precious time. Let us be called by our God into service in his church. And let us not covet what others have.
Pastor Shawn LaRue, Seymour UMC
Author of Incomplete