It’s not fair!
You’ve heard it. You’ve probably said it. You surely have thought it.
I certainly have.
I have vivid memories of complaining to my mother about some imbalance between me and my sister. Even as kids, we have a keen sense of where others are coming out better than we think they ought. It is truly part of the human condition. We want others to get only what they “deserve” and not a bit more.
The vineyard workers from the parable Jesus tells in this week’s Gospel reading are struggling with pay that seems terribly unfair. The landowner goes out and hires workers early in the day, promising them the usual daily wage. They go out to work. Through the day, the landowner goes out four more times hiring more workers for ever-decreasing shifts, each time telling the late-hired workers he will pay them “whatever is right.”
When the end of the day comes, all the workers gather to be paid. The landowner starts by first paying those who worked just 1 hour, and they receive a full day’s wage. The workers who put in a 12 hour day begin to expect more, since they worked so much longer. But they also receive the usual daily wage.
The full-day workers grumble, and the landowner points out that this wage is what they agreed upon. “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?”
In truth, we ARE envious because God is generous. We want God to be fair, but instead, God is often unbelievably generous. God is sometimes so generous that it irritates us. When we are irritated it is because we’ve missed the point; God is just as invested in the other workers, and their care, as God is invested in us.
When we are able to step beyond what is fair and look for what is generous and what is loving, we are beginning to look at the world like God does.
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 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?’ 7 They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 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.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 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.’ 13 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? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
You open your hand and pour down blessings on us all.
Help me to be thankful for your blessings.
Help me to see your generosity to me.
Help me to rejoice in your generosity to the people around me.
Teach me to think beyond what is fair and what is deserved.
Remind me of the countless ways you are generous beyond what I deserve.
Open my heart to rejoice in your generosity to others.
Help me to see the world through your eyes.